Sunday, August 29, 2010

Concentrating on the Breath in Meditation

Concentrating on the breath in meditation is a common strategy. The steady rhythm of your breaths flowing in and out of your body is relaxing. Every time thoughts intrude on your meditative practice, if you gently bring your attention back to your breath you can make those thoughts fade away.
Photo by: KGC16/  2010  7/23/10 Alessandra Ambrosio at a photoshoot. (St. Barts)  Photo via Newscom

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

I was just reading an article about meditation when I came across this piece of advice, “ I suggest using the breath as a focus. It’s like a natural door that connects ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’”
What a wonderful visualization for the breath when used as a meditation tool!

Do you concentrate on the breath during mediation, or do you use some other point of concentration?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Integrative Mind-Body Training: Shortcut to Meditative Bliss

There’s a new kid on the meditation block. It’s called Integrative Mind-Body Training (IMBT) and it is getting a lot of publicity in the wake of a recent study published online on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
MAGELANG, JAVA, INDONESIA - JUNE 1: Buddhist monks meditate at the yard of Borobudur temple, built between 750 and 842 AD, June 1, 2007 in Magelang, Central Java province, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak Day or 'the day of Buddha's birth, his enlightenment and his reaching of nirvana' today. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images)

IMBT is based on traditional Chinese medicine. Although this meditation practice is getting a lot of press lately, the techniques was actually developed in the 1990s. A number of studies have shown that IMBT has a positive effect on cognitive function and stress reduction.

But perhaps more importantly, for a society that wants everything now, IMBT reportedly achieves these effects very quickly—after practicing this meditative practice for just 11 hours according to the most recent study. (Standard meditation, by comparison, can take years of regular practice to achieve the brain wave changes seen in a brief practice of IMBT).

University of Oregon Study

The most recent study of IMBT was conducted on 45 University of Oregon students. Half of these students did IMBT training and half of the students did relaxation training. The students’ brains were scanned before and after the training.

At the conclusion of the study, the IMBT group’s brain scans were compared against the relaxation group. The brain scans of the IMBT group had increased brain connectivity. These connections were more pronounced in an area of the brain that regulates emotion and behavior.

It took just six hours of IMBT to start this brain connectivity and this effect became very obvious after 11 hours of practice.

How does IMBT Work?

IMBT appears to combine many different meditative disciplines—mindfulness, controlled breathing, guided visualization—into one practice.

According to PsychCentral, “The technique avoids struggles to control thought, relying instead on a state of restful alertness, allowing for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from a coach, who provides breath-adjustment guidance and mental imagery while soothing music plays in the background.”

Further, “Thought control is achieved gradually through posture, relaxation, body-mind harmony and balanced breathing. The authors noted in the study that IBMT may be effective during short-term application because of its integrative use of these components.”

And I agree. There is something about the integrative use all of these meditative and/or spiritual components that bring results FAST. So of course, I want to try it.

There’s only one problem. Apparently, IMBT cannot be learned, or even practiced, on your own or while listening to tapes. A coach is essential for practicing IMBT, and I can’t find a coach anywhere. This technique is so new that there may not even be that many qualified coaches in the world.

But I’ll continue to look for one.

Have you any experience with practicing IMBT? Do you know where I can find an IMBT coach?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Acupuncture, Placebo Works the Same on Knee Arthritis, says Study

A new study indicates that those who think that they received acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis (but didn’t) and those that actually did receive acupuncture showed identical symptom relief.
CHONGQING, CHINA - JANUARY 9: (CHINA OUT) Chinese man Wei Shengchu displays acupuncture needles in his forehead during a self-acupuncture performance on January 9, 2007 in Chongqing Municipality, China. Wei inserted 1,200 needles into his head skin during the show. According to local media, the sixty-year-old acupuncturist is a cosmetic doctor from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who has the Guinness World Record for self-acupuncturing at 1,790 needles in his face. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

The study, which will be published in the September issue of Arthritis Care and Research, is the latest in a number of studies that have documented the value of the “placebo effect” in managing pain and in healing varied illnesses and disease.

The placebo effect was originally tested, albeit unknowingly, by an army nurse during World War II. According to Wired:

“When the morphine supply ran low, the nurse assured a wounded soldier that he was getting a shot of potent painkiller, though her syringe contained only salt water. Amazingly, the bogus injection relieved the soldier’s agony and prevented the onset of shock.”

This was the first reported case of the power of the mind—the power of belief –to heal the body. But there would be more. Today, all pharmaceutical drugs are tested against the placebo effect to see how effective a medication, minus belief, actually is.

There’s only one problem with this “scientific” test…you cannot really separate one’s belief from one’s activity—any activity. Time and again, the placebo effect has shown that those who believe that a medication is healing them or relieving their symptoms actually experience such an effect.

This most recent study that shows acupuncture and placebo having the same positive results on those who suffer from knee osteoarthritis is just more evidence in what we already now. But it goes a step farther.

According to WebMD, “The goal of the study was to evaluate the effects of the treatments and the impact of interactions between the health care provider and the patient. Acupuncturists were trained to interact with patients using one of two communication styles. One style, called ‘high expectation’ had the health care provider telling patients he or she has ‘had a lot of success treating knee pain’ therefore increasing a patient’s expectation. The second style, called ‘neutral,’ had providers telling patients the treatments ‘may or may not work for you.’”

And which approach do you think worked better in reducing the patient’s pain? That’s right…there was a “small but significant effect on pain and satisfaction with treatment” when the acupuncturist communicated a positive expectation to the patient.

In my opinion, the acupuncturists’ positive attitude added just a bit more “oomph” to the placebo effect. The provider’s positive attitude helped the patient to believe in the treatment which, in turn, caused their healing. In a healing or, really, any other endeavor, it all boils down to what you believe.

Speaking of which…what do you believe about the power of belief to put you over (or under) in life?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Divine Matrix: Book Review

The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief

The Divine Matrix: Bridging Space, Miracles, and Belief. Gregg Braden. New York: Hay House, 2007. 223 pp.

Gregg Braden’s, The Divine Matrix, proposes that we are more than mere specks in a universe that doesn’t care about us, a universe that we have no control over. Rather, he proposes that we are the creators of our world and of what we experience in it. We live in an interactive universe, Braden says, one in which our participation is mandatory. Whatever we have faith in, will come to pass. The Divine Matrix guarantees it.

Yes, organized religions have been touting the importance of faith in unseen forces (or God) forever, so Braden’s claim is not new. Neither is his theory of an interactive universe particularly new. (Everyone from Deepak Chopra to Dr. Wayne W. Dyer have quoted the same studies in quantum physics that seem to indicate that particles and waves (scientific gobeldy goo that I don’t understand very well) requires a conscious observer for it to “collapse” into our reality—the reality that we expect to see.

But Braden, a former senior computer systems designer, just does it better.

Throughout The Divine Matrix, Braden lists study after study from quantum physics (and explains them in a way that a scientifically-challenged person, such as myself, can understand) that builds inexorably toward the conclusion that we are all responsible for the reality that we observe.

And there is no escape. We are constantly creating whether we believe in his theory or not. We are constantly creating whether we realize it or not. We are constantly creating whether we want to or not.

As Braden says in the introduction, The Divine Matrix “provides the container, as well as a bridge and a mirror, for everything that happens between the world within us and the one outside of our bodies. The fact that this field exists in everything from the smallest particles of the quantum atom to distant galaxies whose light is just now reaching our eyes, and in everything between, changes what we’ve believe about our role in creation.”

But Braden just doesn’t tell us how the Divine Matrix works; he also tells us how we can change the reality that we’ve unconsciously created for ourselves.

In reading The Divine Matrix, my view of my role in creation certainly shifted. For the first time in my life, I felt empowered. I was not just plopped down on earth as an innocent victim of life. I, puny little me, could make a difference in my life and the lives of everyone and everything in the universe. (Everything that happens in the divine matrix affects everyone in the matrix, even if they are on the other side of the world!)

The Divine Matrix is well-written and is wonderfully inspirational. I rank it #1 on my list of the best spiritual/inspirational books on the market.

And I’ve read a lot of spiritual/inspirational books.

By the way…Braden does not discount the existence of a higher power. On the contrary, it is the energy of a higher power, Braden says, that is the creative power of the Divine Matrix.

Buy or borrow a copy of The Divine Matrix, read it, and let me know what you think!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th – Not Always a “Bad Luck” Day

Image by Lars Sundstrom

Happy Friday the 13th!

Do you believer that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day? Do you approach every Friday the 13th with foreboding? Would you say that you have an intense fear of Friday the 13th?

If so, you’re not alone. According to Dr. Donald Dossey, approximately 21 million Americans have an intense fear, called paraskevidekatriaphobia, of Friday the 13th. (That translates into roughly 8 percent of Americans.)

But it might surprise you to know that Friday the 13th hasn’t always been a bad luck day. In fact, there’s a certain spiritual significance to the number 13 that has been tragically lost in all of the Black Friday superstition and hysteria surrounding this day.

How Friday the 13th got such a bad rap is explained in this Squidoo Lens. Even more interesting is the author’s run-down of the spiritual significance of the number 13 through many different cultures and spiritual traditions. It’s a fascinating read.

For those of you who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, this article may cure your condition.

Read it and…


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Practice Mindfulness for a Healthier, Happier YOU

Present-moment awareness, also called mindfulness, is at the root of the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and—most recently—spiritual gurus like Eckhart Tolle.

But what is mindfulness and why is it so important?

Putting your attention on the present moment calms a mind awash in a flood of thoughts, constant thoughts. Most of these thoughts are negative, Monday morning quarterbacking thoughts. “I shouldn’t have done this. I should have done that. Oh why did I do that?”

These thoughts create an enormous amount of stress which, as we now know, negatively affects our bodies. But practicing mindfulness reduces the health effects of a rambling, anxiety-producing mind.

According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risks of heart disease. Mindfulness by even slow the progress of HIV.”

Such powerful effects from the simple practice of mindfulness are not unusual, they are the norm. I guess Buddha and ancient Chinese Taoist Philosopher Lao Tzu knew what they were talking about!

Beginning Steps in Mindfulness

You can begin your practice of living in the present moment, or mindfulness, with a simple step.

Several times a day, bring your total awareness to the present moment. If you are washing dishes, bring your entire attention to the act of washing dishes. If you are writing a short story, bring your entire attention to the act of writing your story. If you are playing with your children, bring your total attention to your children.

During these brief, beginning practices of mindfulness, your mind will wander. Trust me. When your mind wanders just gently, without condemnation, bring your mind back to the present moment. Stay in the present moment as long as possible each session and then gradually extend those moments of mindfulness.

When you practice mindfulness, notice how peaceful you become. You become peaceful because most of your thoughts are anxious and pointless “what ifs” about the future or anxious and equally pointless guilt or regret about the past.

Only one event at a time is possible in the present moment. Whatever happens in the present moment, you can deal with it.

And then you go onto the next present moment.

Try mindfulness and see how calm, happy, and healthy you will become. Let me know of your results with living in the present moment.

In upcoming posts, I will give you some specific strategies for practicing that state of mindfulness of which Buddha and the Tao Te Ching speaks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Biocentrism: Book Review

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe Robert Lanaz, MD with Bob Berman Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2009. 214 pp.

The trees and the snow evaporate when we’re sleeping. The kitchen disappears when we’re in the bathroom. When you turn from on room to the next, when you no longer hear the sounds of the dishwasher, the ticking clock, the smell of a chicken roasting…they all disappear into nothingness. *

No, this is not an episode of Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. It is not the plot of a science fiction movie. It is not even the ramblings of a mad--and very delusional--mental patient. Rather, this is a theory of the universe developed by renowned scientist Robert Lanza, MD.

Biocentrism, co-written with respected astronomer Bob Berman, details a new theory of the universe. The theory of Biocentrism is that we created the universe, and everything in it, with our minds, or consciousness. Without consciousness, nothing can exist. As if this isn’t mind-bending enough, Lanza adds that nothing exists without an observer to witness it. (In other words, if you aren’t looking at that beautiful magenta sunset, it doesn’t exist).

Yes, this sounds absolutely wacky, but Lanza offers numerous quantum physics and anatomy studies that make Biocentrism sound--gulp--logical.

He starts off mildly enough with a lesson in anatomy, explaining a scientific fact that all of us learned in school but that most of us have forgotten--that the brain literally creates our reality. For instance, the image of a house, or anything that we see, is but an interpretation of the image that our brains create. In this case, we are seeing a brain-manufactured image, not a real, physical object.

From there, Lanza wallops the reader with numerous studies from quantum physics that show the undeniable affect that observation has on matter. (Two of the most famous of these studies is the two-slit experiment and the experiment that showed twin photons changing spin directions simultaneously).

In chapter after chapter, each chapter building upon the previous one, Lanza refutes both traditional scientific thought--the “big bang” didn’t really happen--and ancient spiritual belief systems by citing numerous studies from quantum physics. Indeed, these studies do seem to lead to an inescapable conclusion--our so-called reality is a creation of our consciousness.

For me the evidence for Biocentrism that Lanza offers is compelling if a bit unsettling. (It’s a scary thing when your entire belief system is ripped apart). To make matters worse, Lanza does little to ease my anxiety. He offers no opinion on a supreme authority (such as God) or an explanation as to why we created this universe, this earth, and our own individual and collective realities. Although he repeats the well-established scientific fact that “energy never dies, it just changes form,” thereby ensuring all of us eternal life--in some form--he does not suggest any sort of purpose for our eternal consciousness.

But, of course, such an explanation falls within the mystical realm and, as such, is outside of Lanza’s area of expertise. His analysis of the scientific evidence seems solid enough, however, for me to take the possibility of Biocentrism seriously.

*From BemBella’s press release for the book, Biocentrism

Ann Rice Quits Christianity

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  Writer Anne Rice attends the opening night of 'Lestat' at The Palace Theatre April 25, 2006 in New York City.  (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

Anne Rice, a writer primarily known for her vampire novels, has quit Christianity. The 68-year-old famous author aroused controversy when she posted this message on Facebook:

"Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.... In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

I don’t know what particular event spurred Rice to such a public rejection of Christianity, but I also have to say “AMEN” to the points that she so eloquently enumerated. How much hatred is spread in the name of Christianity!

Although Jesus told us to love everybody and to judge nobody, what do many Christians, and Christian organizations, do?

• We Christians condemn homosexuals because their sexual orientation is a sin. Therefore, they should not be allowed to work in occupations dealing with our children. They should not speak of their twisted, abnormal, and sinful sexual orientation. And they certainly should never be allowed to marry someone of the same sex!

• We Christians treat women as second class citizens in most endeavors (this despite the fact that Jesus did not discriminate against women) and the Catholic Church will not allow women to become priests.

• We Christians of a certain sect (Catholics) will not allow a woman to control her reproductive system with artificial birth control.

• We Christians somehow think that being a Democrat is a huge sin and that we must stamp out this evil political party before they infect our society with their liberal (read sinful) views.

…And I could go on and on.

How many wars have been fought in the name of Christianity? How much hate has been fostered in the name of Christianity? How many people have we hurt in the name of Christianity?

I was raised a Christian and, like Rice, I remain committed to Christ. But I gave up traditional Christianity a long time ago.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Using Bibliomancy to Receive Divine Guidance

Image by ostillac callisto
If you need divine guidance--qucikly--try Bibliomancy. It works every time.

Bibliomancy is the practice of seeking divine guidance by selecting random passages from a book. It works best when a spiritual book--such as the Holy Bible--is used, but any book will do in a pinch.

This form of spiritual guidance, or divination, has been around for thousands of years, and it really works. Sometimes the random passages that you choose when practicing Bibliomancy are so appropriate for your question that it really spooky. Other times, you may have to meditate over the answer that you receive. Either way, Bibliomancy is a great way to receive spiritual insight into a matter.

Practicing Bibliomancy

Practicing this ancient form of spiritual guidance is quite simple.

- Choose a book that seems to call to you. This can be any book but, as I’ve already said, spiritual books may more clearly speak to your problem.

- Sit down with the book in your lap.

- Close your eyes and think about your problem or question for a few minutes.

- With your eyes still closed, take a deep breath and open the book.

- Flip through the pages until you feel the urge to stop on a particular page.

- With your eyes still closed, run your finger down the page that you have randomly selected.

- When you feel ready, immediately stop your finger from sliding anywhere else on the page. (When the spirit wants you to stop at a particular passage, you may feel a slight stickiness at that point on the page.)

- Open your eyes and read the sentence and the paragraph where your finger is pointing.

- This will be your answer. .

The more that you practice Bibliomancy, the more skilled you will become at finding, and interpreting, the answers to your problems or questions. Have fun with it, but treat it as the divine spiritual tool that it is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Zip Up" Technique for Empaths

If you are an empath, as I am, it is important to guard your aura from unwanted intrusion from others emotions. Although everyone is susceptible to “picking up” the emotions of others, empaths are particularly susceptible to it and can become drained and sickly because of it.

To make matters worse, many empaths cannot protect themselves from soaking up the emotions of others because it happens subconsciously and they think that the emotions are their own.

Although a little sensitivity is good--and being an empath is a great gift--picking up everyone’s emotions, without any control, is not good. You need a way to close of your aura to all but the person or persons that you want to help with your empathic gift.

Donna Eden’s “Zip Up” technique is one such method that you can do anywhere and anytime to protect your aura from the energy fields of others. It is a method that has worked for me. Watch this video of Donna Eden demonstrating her “Zip Up” technique, try it, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Emotional Healing Properties of Rose Quartz

The healing properties of rose quartz lie in its nickname--the “love stone.” Because rose quartz addresses love, which is the most powerful energy, it has the capacity to heal anything. But don’t expect rose quartz to promote healing all by itself. As with everything else, your belief in its healing power will make it work for you.

What is Rose Quartz?

Rose quartz is a pink stone that opens the heart chakra. It promotes all forms of love, including the most elusive kind of love--self-love (how difficult it is for us to love ourselves). The power of rose quartz brings love into every situation. As such, it is very emotionally soothing.

Emotional Healing Properties of Rose Quartz

Rose quartz has many emotional healing properties. It fosters:

- Forgiveness

- Kindness

- Gentleness

- Tolerance

- Peace

Rose quartz helps to remove:

- Anger

- Fears

- Resentments

- Guilt

Rose quartz also raises your self-esteem, balances your emotions, and helps you to release any old emotional traumas.

Using Rose Quartz for Emotional Healing

If you need some emotional healing, rose quartz can help. Simply carry a rose quartz with you. Whenever you feel any emotional upset, hold the stone in your hand. Feel it’s cool, soothing power. Imagine that it’s pulsating in your hand. Imagine this until you actually feel the pulsating power of this stone.

Think of whatever is causing you emotional pain. Mentally send the pulsating rose quarts out to soothe this problem. Imagine the source of your pain as being surrounded by a pink bubble of soothing light. Feel your emotional upset be transformed into pure love.