Thursday, 29 December 2011

Pain only exists in resistance.
Joy exists only in acceptance.
Painful experiences which you heartily accept become joyful.
Joyful experiences which you do not accept become painful.
There is no such thing as a bad experience.
Bad experiences are simply your resistance to what is.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy":

Unpacking the lyrics of the iconic happiness anthem to find surprising science-tested insights on well-being.
In 1988, Bobby McFerrin wrote one of the most beloved anthems to happiness of all time. On September 24 that year, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” became the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart. But more than a mere feel-good tune, the iconic song is brimming with neuroscience and psychology insights on happiness that McFerrin — whose fascinating musings on music and the brain you might recall from World Science Festival’s Notes & Neurons — embedded in its lyrics, whether consciously or not.

To celebrate the anniversary of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” I unpack the verses to explore the neuropsychology wisdom they contain in the context of several studies that offer lab-tested validation for McFerrin’s intuitive insight.

In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double

Our tendency to add more stress to our stress by dwelling on it is known is Buddhism as the second arrow and its eradication is a cornerstone of mindfulness practice. But now scientists are confirming that worrying about our worries is rather worrisome. Recent research has found prolonged negative cardiac effects of worry episodes, following a 2006 study that linked worrying to heart disease.

Here, I give you my phone number
When you worry call me
I make you happy

Multiple studies have confirmed the positive correlation between social support and well-being, and some have examined the “buffering model,” which holds that social support protects people from the adverse effects of stressful events.

Harvard physician Nicholas Christakis has studied the surprising power of our social networks, finding profound and long-term correlation between the well-being, both physical and mental, of those with whom we choose to surround ourselves and our own.

Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down

Mirror neurons are one of the most important and fascinating discoveries of modern neuroscience — neurons that fire not only when we perform a behavior, but also when we observe that behavior in others. In other words, neural circuitry that serves as social mimicry allowing the expressed emotions of others to trigger a reflection of these emotions in us. Frowns, it turns out, are indeed contagious.

Put a smile on your face

Pop-culture wisdom calls it “fake it ’till you make it”; psychotherapy calls it “cognitive behavioral therapy“; social psychology call it story editing. Evidence abounds that consciously changing our thoughts and behaviors to emulate the emotions we’d like to feel helps us internalize and embody those emotions in a genuine felt sense. Paul Ekman, who pioneered the study of facial expressions,found that voluntarily producing a smile may help deliberately generate the psychological change that takes place during spontaneous positive affect — something corroborated in the recently explored science of smiles.

--by Maria Popova

Thursday, 22 December 2011

I am delighted by how much I enjoy Christmas these days, how I enjoy the preparation, the shopping , the festive lights , the warm greetings the sharing of memories.
It wasn't always that way for me. I can remember crying my eyes out at the thought of Christmas. Thanks to Tai Chi and inquiry Christmas is a very different experience now.

Growing up Christmas time was a nightmare for my mother. She had very little money then and put herself under tremendous pressure to have gifts for everyone from the milkman to the old school friend she only saw at Christmas. Presents would arrive in the door and be re-wrapped and sent back out. Many the box of chocolate biscuits was sadly re-wrapped and passed on. Once, we forgot to re-wrap she was so embarrassed when her 'friend reminded her of the mistake - every year !
(Pity she didn't have inquiry. )

As she got older she would get the flu each year, always as the pressure was mounting she would take to the bed. I would do the shopping and Mum would re-emerge on Christmas Eve. Then we would pack up and travel to my Uncle's rectory for the holidays.

She worked non stop once we got there, everything had to be perfect, the Christmas meal (a feast) took hours to prepare. Everything had to be home made and perfect.
Christmas night she would collapse into a chair and fall asleep exhausted at the end of the day.

Now I can see how crazy it all was. Then I believed that that was how Christmas 'should' be.

Now it is more about spending time with people than about the perfect present and the perfect meal.

When I recall the good memories from back then, it was the late night reading by the fire, the occasional deep conversation, but especially the warmth of Uncle Seamus's welcome, his delight in having us to stay with him for Christmas. I knew our presence made his Christmas. I just wish that my mother had realised more fully then that She was the Gift. It was not doing the cooking and presents, it was her loving us that mattered.

She did love us worked to do the impossible for us, burnt herself out for us.

Writing this blog has helped me to see more clearly that that was her path and in some strange way she loved it.

And so I'm dedicating this Christmas to the memory of Mother's Love of all Mother's love. That quality of loving that is beyond words to explain. That quality I am projecting on to Mothers is the deep mysterious connection that somehow nourishes our spirits.

May your spirit be fully nourished this year, may you feel the deep love residing in your own heart. And may you share it happily with those you meet.

Monday, 19 December 2011

"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words."

-Rachel Naomi Remen
"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words."

-Rachel Naomi Remen

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Repetition is a really powerful tool, whether you want to master an art like Tai Chi or master your mind (or both) practice is vital. The daily practice of Tai Chi trains your body and if done with awareness also awakens the mind.

I have found that watching my 'wandering' mind has made me very aware , aware of the often subconscious thoughts the stuff that robs my energy and my concentration.

If thoughts persists in interrupting my practice I will take those thoughts to inquiry, usually Byron Katie's four questions. Knowing that I will do this later is often enough to quieten my mind. It has become a practice and the repetition has taught my body-mind that I will work on the issue later and so it allows me to return my focus to Tai Chi.

Practice what you want to become.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Power of substitution.
We have very little control over our thoughts, they just appear for example avoid thinking of a pink elephant. Try it now Force yourself not to think of a pink elephant with a curly tail. You can't do it .It's impossible.

The only way of consciously changing a thought or of making a positive change to a habit or behaviour is to substitute another. You can avoid thinking of a pink elephant by thinking of something that appeals to you even more. Like what you will have for dinner, or that fabulous dress you saw in town (if you were me).

You can stop suffering from negative feelings -not by suppressing them but by substituting positive ones.

You can give up limiting behaviours by replacing it with enriching ones. Instead of focusing on the diet you focus on becoming fitter and healthier. Instead of concentrating on the what you are missing (chocolate cake ) you concentrate on what you are gaining. Healthy fit slim body.

Substitution is immeasurably more powerful than willpower as an agent for change.

Monday, 12 December 2011

There are many ways we can take charge of our lives.

I'm going to review some of the ways that work for me in the next few days.

The first is to recognise that we do have choice.

Making a conscious choice to follow one direction in preference to another is
open to all of us.

We can change the way we think, we can change our childhood conditioning.

We can change our habits and our beliefs.

We can change the way we behave.

Recognising this is the first step in making it happen.

We can choose to stay calm even in difficult situations. We can make it our habit.
Here is an exercise to do just that.

Imagine yourself calm relaxed and at peace.

Tell yourself you have all the time in the world.

In your imagination, note your slow breathing, unhurried speech,relaxed gestures,
hint of a smile.

Now start pretending you are exactly like the person in your imagination. Act as
if you really are that person.

Just for a minute imagine yourself at work at play or in some social situation.
How does it feel to be calm and relaxed in that situation.

Imagine others seeing you as that calm relaxed person. How does that feel ?

Our imagination is one of our greatest gifts lets use it to help us develop the skills we desire.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A preview of Tai Chi for people signing up for the January Classes.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

An Old Japanese Love Warrior

--by Terry Dobson
A turning point in my life came one day on a train in the middle of a drowsy spring afternoon. The old car clanked and rattled over the rails. It was comparatively empty -- a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks out shopping, a couple of off-duty bartenders studying the racing form. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedge rows.
At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the quiet afternoon was shattered by a man bellowing at the top of his lungs — yelling violent, obscene, incomprehensible curses. Just as the doors closed the man, still yelling, staggered into our car. He was big, drunk, and dirty. He wore laborer’s clothing. His front was stiff with dried vomit. His eyes bugged out, a demonic, neon red. His hair was crusted with filth. Screaming, he swung at the first person he saw, a woman holding a baby. The blow glanced off her shoulder, sending her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
The couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. They were terrified. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old lady. “You old w*@#e!” he bellowed. “I’ll kick your a*#!” He missed; the old woman scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole at the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood tip.
I was young and in pretty good shape. I stood six feet, weighed 225. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
My teacher taught us each morning that the art was devoted to peace. “Aikido,” he said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate other people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”
I listened to his words. I tried hard. I wanted to quit fighting. I even went so far as to cross the street a few times to avoid the “chimpira,” the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. They’d have been happy to test my martial ability. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart of hearts, however, I was dying to be a hero. I wanted a chance, an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
“This is it!” I said to myself as I got to my feet. “This slob, this animal, is drunk and mean and violent. People are in danger. If I don’t do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt. I’m gonna take his a*# to the cleaners.”
Seeing me stand up, the drunk saw a chance to focus his rage. “Aha!” he roared. “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!” He punched the metal pole once to give weight to his words.
I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead. I gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I gave him every bit of p#*$-ant nastiness I could summon up. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to be the one to move First. And I wanted him mad, because the madder he got, the more certain my victory. I pursed my lips and blew him a sneering, insolent kiss. It hit him like a slap in the face. “All right!” he hollered. “You’re gonna get a lesson.” He gathered himself for a rush at me. He’d never know what hit him.
A split second before he moved, someone shouted “Hey!” It was ear splitting. I remember being struck by the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it — as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he had suddenly stumbled upon it. “Hey!” I wheeled to my left, the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono and hakama. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.
“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly. The giant man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman and towered threateningly over him.
“Talk to you?” he roared above the clacking wheels. “Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer. There was not a trace of fear or resentment about him. “What’cha been drinkin’?” he asked lightly, with interest. “I been drinkin’ sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your god d#*& business!”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” the old man said with delight. “Absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake, too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s seventy-six, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it our into the garden, and we sit on the old wooden bench that my grandfather’s first student made for him. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, you know, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Persimmons do not do well after ice storms, although I must say that ours has done rather better that I expected, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. Still, it is most gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening — even when it rains!” He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling, happy to share his delightful information.
As he struggled to follow the intricacies of the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. “Yeah,” he said slowly, “I love persimmons, too…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes,” said the old man, smiling, “and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”
“No,” replied the laborer, “my wife died.” He hung his head. Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job, I don’t got no money, I don’t got nowhere to go. I’m so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of pure despair rippled through his body. Above the baggage rack a four-color ad trumpeted the virtues of suburban luxury living.
Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.
Just then, the train arrived at my stop. The platform was packed, and the crowd surged into the car as soon as the doors opened. Maneuvering my way out, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. “My, my,” he said with undiminished delight, “that is a very difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it.”
I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled like a sack on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man looked down at him, all compassion and delight, one hand softly stroking the filthy, matted head.
As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle and meanness had been accomplished with a few kind words. I had seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love, as the founder had said. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.
--by Terry Dobson

I was delighted to come across this story that delighted inspired and me when I first heard Ram Dass tell it many years ago. I hope it has inspired you too.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Monday's Mini Form

Love ... It surrounds every being and extends
slowly to embrace all that shall be.

- Kahlil Gibran -

Love is always Loving you.
Without this Love you cannot breathe,
as without air you cannot live.
Love is Meditation, Meditation is Love.
Heart has no frontiers;
Meditate on This.
You are this Love, You are That.
Simply be Quiet and stay as such.

This poem by Papaji never fails to inspire me and
renew my desire to clear out all the remaining blocks
to loving each moment, each encounter, each breath.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.
- Minnie Aumonier

Do Trees Talk to Each Other?
Don't trees only talk to each other in the movies? Professor Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia shares her latest research regarding forest ecosystems: amazingly, trees in a forest coexist in a synergistic web of interconnections, with the largest, oldest, "mother trees" serving as hubs. Because of the old trees linked into the network, the underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees -- becoming a fascinating, real-life model of forest resilience and regeneration. This short video shares the intriguing science behind forest inter-connectivity.

Video from KarmaTube

I love this video and feel that it confirms what we all know intuitively. Not only trees but everything in this vast universe is connected. I believe that love is the connecting 'glue' that binds us all to each other, to our past generations, to everything in existence. The more we can clear out our blocks to love the more we will help each other and our whole universe.