7 comments on “Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds”

Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

The secret to wealth is to give generously to others. Whatever we give will come back to us many times over. 

Remembering God and being kind to others is the most important job that any of us has in this life. Being kind to others is the essential ingredient to being able to remember God— to be able to see ultimate reality. Developing kindness and compassion toward others is the sure way to happiness. But how does that work?, you might ask: Doesn’t being kind to others in a charitable way only benefit the others? No. Kindness benefits both the other and yourself. Others do not exist independently; they have come from your past karmas. They only exist in your life because you see them as existing. The Hindu sage Patanjali explains this in the Yoga Sutras: vastu- samye chitta-bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah PYS IV. 15. This can be translated to mean: each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears to you according to how you see it. 

When you are unkind to someone, you plant a seed to see unkindness. For example, you judge someone as a greedy person. As soon as you think or say that, you plant a seed that will ensure that greedy people will appear in your life. 

When you see yourself as poor, as not having enough to be able to share and be generous to others, you plant seeds for seeing yourself as a victim of poverty, and that will become your reality as you continue to nourish that perception of yourself. You have a choice: you can see yourself as an enlightened being or as a victim, but you can’t have both. If you eventually want to see yourself as an enlightened being, then begin that process by seeing others as holy beings. How you treat others will determine how others treat you; how others treat you will determine how you see yourself; how you see yourself will determine who you are. 

If you want to rid the world of greed, you must destroy the seeds in your own mind that cause greed to appear in the world. In other words, you must do your best to be kind to others— to take care of others as if they were your own self. Other- centeredness is the secret to overcoming the disease of self-centeredness. Put others before yourself. Be more concerned for the happiness of others than for your own happiness. This will dissolve otherness and reveal the oneness of being.

Kindness is the key to Yoga. 

Without the development of kindness toward others, you cannot make progress in yoga. Taking care of others is a sure way to increase your own happiness. When we do things with the intention, first and foremost, of making ourselves happy, we only increase our identification with our small self— our body, mind, and personality. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali cites this identification as the major obstacle to Yoga, calling it avidya, which means ignorance or mistaken identity. The yoga practices are designed to help you drop your self-centered concerns and become more other- centered. Being more other-centered expands your sense of self and increases true self-confidence. If you observe unhappy and depressed people you will find that they usually are self-obsessed. The key to uplifting yourself is to do what you can to uplift the lives of others. 

Why birds? When you feed the wild birds, you karmically assure that you will always have enough to eat and that wildness will not die inside you. Birds as well as other wild animals are having a hard time surviving in a world dominated by self-centered human beings. When you nourish wildness in another you keep it alive within yourself. Most people assume that birds, being wild, know how to take care of themselves, and feel that taking care of them should not be our responsibility. But the fact is, we have polluted with pesticides or destroyed most of the wild forests and fields where they might have been able to find an abundance of nourishing food. Birds require so little to live— a few good organic seeds and a couple of drops of fresh water— and while it may not be much, it can mean the difference between life and death for a feathered person. 

THE PRACTICE Before you feed yourself— even before you drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning— feed the birds. Fill up a bird feeder outside your window or at least put some organic seeds or bread crumbs on a windowsill. If wild birds aren’t nearby, feed your cat, dog, or other family member.

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Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.

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0 comments on “Blessing the Way: Giving Blessings”

Blessing the Way: Giving Blessings

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

When we are at peace with the other people in our lives, we can be at peace with ourselves.

The other people in our lives exert a tremendous amount of power over us. Thoughts of them fill our waking and our dreaming life. We become sad, angry, jealous, or depressed by focusing on the faults and shortcomings of others. We dwell on the insensitive way they are treating us or have treated us in the past. We often blame others for why we aren’t succeeding or why we can’t achieve the happiness we deserve. We feel treated unfairly by others, unloved or not loved enough. We think that we deserve better. We often feel sorry for ourselves and long to be surrounded by loving and supportive people who think we are amazing. Right? And our excuse is always, “If only he would stop . . .” or, “If only she didn’t do . . .” We too often feel that other people are in our way— in the way of our happiness. The others in our lives are actually providing us with the way. But we must be willing to see them in that light.

To be free of all the nasty people in your world is possible.

Have faith in the knowledge that all the nasty people in your world can change. But don’t wait for them to change on their own, or you’ll be waiting forever! You must change them yourself. If you want someone to be a holy being, you must see him or her as a holy being. They actually only exist in your own mind anyway. They have come from your own past karmas and appear according to how you see them.

How you see anyone or any situation in your present life is due to your past karmas— how you have treated others, in your past. When the great saint Ramana Maharshi was asked, “How should we treat others?” he replied, in yogic fashion, “There are no others.”

We cannot escape our past karmas— the actions we have already done— but we can start now and do our best to plant the kinds of seeds we want to see grow in the future. Cultivating forgiveness, kindness, and friendliness toward others results in spiritual strength. So much suffering comes from seeing ourselves as a victim of others— as a repository for their selfishness, cruelty, greed, insensitivity, and so forth. We see the world as “out there,” coming at us, instead of taking responsibility and realizing that the world we see outside of us has come from inside us, from how we have treated others in our past. Others provide us with a karmic projection— a mirror in which to see ourselves.

The way of the yogi is to dive deeper. The nature of the eternal soul is joy, and this is the only true reality; everything else is temporary. When one realizes the nature of his or her own soul they discover the true Self— that which can never be harmed by anyone. Through the practice of giving blessings to others you come closer to the experience of the power of your own soul— the power of goodness.

When we hug someone we pull them toward us and hold them against our heart. We communicate that we want to be at peace with them, and that we wish them well. To hug someone is to bestow a blessing from the goodness of one’s heart.

It is a well-known fact that only saints give blessings. Well, how do you think a saint becomes a saint? Yes, it is through the practice of giving blessings. As the blessing comes through you, it changes you. By giving blessings to someone else you change the negative perception of that person in your own mind and you also change the perception of yourself as someone who sees negativity. Giving blessings is an anonymous way of changing your world— it can turn devils into angels. And it can all happen in the privacy of your own mind— you don’t have to “meet them for coffee” and talk it out. If you aren’t willing to see someone as a good person, how can you expect him or her to be one? The power is in your hands— well, actually, your mind. The question is, how willing are you to forgive, to let go, and to allow love to lead the way?

Compassion is infinite; you won’t run out, so don’t be stingy with your blessings— give your blessings to everyone— to the people you don’t like as well as the ones you do like. Blessing the ones you love and seeing them as holy beings ensures that they will remain holy, blessed beings in your life.

THE PRACTICE

Allow the image of someone you know to arise in your mind. As you inhale, silently say, “Blessings and love to—” and as you exhale, silently say the name of that person. Continue focusing on that same person or allow other people to float into your consciousness. As you give the blessing try to visualize the person filled with joy and surrounded by light.

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Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.

14 comments on “Can Meditation Make Us Less Angry?”

Can Meditation Make Us Less Angry?

It can sometimes seem like the world is getting angrier. Whether it is Trumpian politics, keyboard warriors or the deluge of bad news we’re presented with on a daily basis, so much of our modern discourse seems to be fueled by animosity.

While anger is sometimes a valid and necessary response to injustice, and a driver of change, the majority of the time it fosters division and hampers our empathy. This raises an important question: are there ways we can lessen this often destructive and limiting emotion?

Anger in the Everyday

It’s in the larger themes of life – from politics to religion – that anger and annoyance are at their most obvious. Anger is deliberately fueled to entrench certain worldviews, stop people from discussing issues from a point of understanding, and obfuscate our common humanity. The people who try to stymie the freedoms of others (whether through terrorism, violence, or more subtle rhetoric and government reform) rely on their own anger at the way things are – and stoking the anger of others – to force their ideas through.

It is anger that allows immigrants to be treated badly, inspires people to picket gay rights marches, and reduces intelligent debate to shouting matches. But it isn’t only here that we see the problems resentment and outrage cause.

In our day-to-day lives and personal relationships, anger can be a significant barrier to happiness and good will. When we become irritable with our partners, children or family, we find it harder to appreciate them as a full human being – with flaws and motivations of their own – and instead accredit them with attributes and intentions that can be quite far from the truth.

When we’re irritable, a thoughtless action can suddenly be misconstrued as a deliberately provocative one. The person in question may be cast in our minds as inherently “lazy” or “annoying” or “selfish,” instead of a good person that we love who happens to have done a lazy, annoying or selfish thing. It throws up a wall which stops us from truly relating to others, and is an impediment to us actually solving the problem or communicating our point of view.

Angry emotions can also feel like something we have little conscious control over. Everyone has experienced a time where they’ve become more incensed than they need to be, snapping or shouting at someone and feeling instantly guilty afterwards – especially if we’ve managed to really hurt their feelings. If this happens too often, our loved ones can even become wary of us, walking on eggshells when really, we’re the one who is being unfair, which is a deeply problematic situation to find ourselves in.

We can find ourselves in the grips of wasted anger over things we can’t control. The deep frustration of being stuck in a long queue, filling out pointless finicky forms, the car in front driving very, very slowly when we need to be somewhere. It can all make us want to scream and cast a cloud over the rest of our day. But ultimately, these feelings get us nowhere, because we can’t change the situation even if we wanted to.

Meditation and a Sense of Calm

Anger and stress are closely related emotions that both complement and feed off each other. We are far more likely to become wound up when we feel under pressure, and much more inclined to let little things go when we feel relaxed. Similar to stress, anger is a physiological response to a perceived threat to you, your loved ones, your property, your self-image, your emotional safety or some part of your identity.

When a cat swipes at another feline intruder in their territory, they are experiencing a similar thing we do when we raise our voice at someone who has just overstepped some sort of personal boundary. Of course the major difference is that we can intellectualize and mull over our anger, even becoming angry at imagined scenarios. But the ancient “flight or fight” mechanism we share with so many other forms of life is essentially the same.

It’s this hair-trigger, lizard-brain response that practices like yoga and meditation can help to regulate. We may be influenced by similar instinctive drivers as other animals, but as humans we have the capacity to think and make steps to change our behavior, and even change the way our mind works.

Brain scans have demonstrated that regular meditation can physically reduce the size of our amygdala, which is the part of our brains which governs our flight or fight response. It also has been shown to calm our autonomic nervous system, the bodily structure through which our stress hormones – such as cortisol and adrenaline – are flooded into the body. It’s through these processes that we feel tense and unable to think clearly, but meditation appears to significantly reduce their hold over us.

Meditation also makes us more aware of our feelings and more empathetic to the feelings of others, building up the emotional bandwidth to deal with the rising tension in any given moment and put a lid on any hostility we feel towards the world. We experience the world from a far less pressured and stressed place, being able to feel anger when it arises without falling into the habitual irritations of an angry person.

With less anger and more understanding in our worldview, it becomes easier to respond appropriately to any annoyances we encounter in life, becoming calmer and (perhaps most importantly) kinder people.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Holly Ashby.  Holly is a wellness writer who works with Beeja Meditation, a meditation center in London, and has written extensively on the benefits of meditation, including less stress, increased focus, and greater corporate well-being in workplaces.

28 comments on “5 Steps to Unleashing Joy, Opening Up, & Being More Yourself”

5 Steps to Unleashing Joy, Opening Up, & Being More Yourself

 

 

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

How much of the time is the authentic YOU showing up in the world?

Do you have a different persona for your work, home life, friends, strangers, and the check-in person at the airport?

Stress, grief, past or current pain or trauma, illness, or anxiety can cause us to retreat inward.

Just like preparing a house to survive the impact of a hurricane, we can close the shutters, protect fragile points of entry, conserve resources, stock up on necessities, and retreat inside.

If you have found yourself hiding the real you from the world, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Unless you are age four or under, crafting an ever-shifting-persona is a natural protection mechanism.

We learn as we grow-up that opening up and being authentic can lead to a slug of pain and a slap of heartache. Intuitively we find out what psychologists have tested to be true: people like those who mimic or mirror their body language. People also find it easier to like those who are similar or share the same interests and passions.

So is it any wonder that all at once everyone is wearing the same color of teal or using the same slang? Is it a surprise that individuals in a group can converge in dress, tastes, interests, and values?

The question is: do you want to open up and be more yourself at the risk of getting hurt and losing friends?

Step 1: Find Your Joy

Can you name five concrete experiences that bring you joy?

Joy is delight fused with serenity and evokes a sense of connection to others, nature, or the divine. Joy is playful and generous.

The first step towards opening up and being authentically you is to uncover what brings you joy. List at least five experiences which bring joy into your life on a daily basis.

Next, you can explore and remember what caused a flash of unexpected joy in the past few months. Recall moments of bliss from your life and write them down too.

List at least five surprises which bring joy into your life sporadically.

Be warned against ascribing to your cultural or familial imprinted definitions of delight. Whereas joy for everyone around you could be a rainbow sprinkled ice-cream cone, for you, it could be a cup of tea and dramatic rain clouds shifting across the sky.

Looking for some daily joy-list inspiration? Here’s my daily joy-list:

1. The first sip of espresso in the morning.
2. Strolling barefoot through the dew-covered grass and examining my garden.
3. Laughter or delight (anyone’s around me, or mine).
4. An unexpected bright dash of color and white space.
5. A smile from a someone I don’t know.
6. Hugs.
7. Listening to the rhythmic breath of my sleeping children.
8. Writing.
9. Chocolate and a captivating book.
10. The last ten minutes of yoga.

Looking for some irregular joy-list inspiration? Here’s my sporadic joy-list:

1. Breathing fresh air and taking a break from the digital while hiking up a mountain, or skiing down one.
2. A day spent swimming in the lake and then picnicking on the shore.
3. Seeing someone I love who lives far away again.
4. Dressing up to celebrate someone.
5. Mastering a new skill.
6. Connecting with someone new, or someone dear, in a deeper way.
7. Going dancing.
8. Cutting and arranging fresh-cut flowers or greenery from my garden.
9. Giving the perfect gift or crafting the perfect experience for someone.
10. Spending a day walking and playing in the woods.

Ready to make your own personalized joy-lists?

Step 2: Schedule in More Joy Moments

It turns out, you can actually add more joy to your life at little cost. Who knew?

By scheduling more of what brings YOU joy into your life, you will be illuminating the authentic you; you’ll begin to be more of you with everyone, everywhere you go.

The truth is that joy is contagious. The positive energy bounces off you and out into the world. People around you will feel your ‘good vibrations’ and respond with a smile.

Unless they are grumpy sour-faces. Then they will resent you like hell until of course, they ask you why you are so dang happy.

In which case, you can tell them. You can even show them your list, and ask them for their Joy Top Five.

Step 3: Relate in a New Way

When you meet someone new, which YOU do you present? What is the first question you ask?

The first question a lot of people ask is, ‘so, what do you do?’ or ‘what do you study?’ or ‘where are you from?’

It is natural for all of us to be comparing. The ego likes to rank where we stand. We can have the very best intentions, but when we ask about someone’s job, it will be challenging to resist ascribing judgment based on their profession. The same is true for where they come from.

Try it. If I say that I’m an award-winning artist living in New York City, what happens? If I shift to telling you I’m studying astrophysics in Russia, what is your reaction? What about if I answer I am a housekeeper in England?

Now try asking someone about their sources of joy in their daily life. What will happen?

They will most likely answer honestly.

People don’t tend to lie about what brings them delight. You can sense a genuine answer by the way their eyes light up when they talk about their source of joy.

Then you will either find out that you:

1. Share a common source of joy
2. Discover something new and authentic about the person
3. Could try the idea on for yourself

Step 4: Be Brave. Control the Conversation.

Perhaps it’s time to shift the conversation.

The pressure of kicking-butt at work and adding being a source of support and joy to those we love can get intense.

Most of the time, we have a feeling that we are letting someone, or something important in our lives, down. We just know we could or should be a better parent, partner, friend, daughter, son, sibling, employee, entrepreneur, artist, cook, or [insert what matters to you most].

The problem is that the world today is so loud and so busy, that it can all feel overwhelming.

It can feel overwhelmingly negative.

Sure, we’ve all read that optimists live longer, enjoy better health, and attract more friends and success. The problem is that when stress, anxiety, illness, or just pure bad-luck kick in, that extra dose of negative news or interaction with your boss can pitch you into negativity.

Just like joy vibrates outward and is contagious, so too is a dark mood and outlook. Get one person complaining bitterly and watch the conversation take a turn for the worst.

The next time those around you are in a stressed out funk, try shaking them up a bit. Ask them about their favorite time of day, or the last time delight flooded out the noise of pressure and expectation.

Step 5: Yoga Yourself

Why does yoga boost your self-esteem? You start to build an inner fire when you show up every day on your yoga mat. You will feel proud that you commit to practice and follow through, even if this commitment is just ten minutes per day.

With time you will master poses you never thought possible, achieve flexibility you only dreamed of, and gradually slim to a healthy weight. There will be a surge of confidence the first time you kick up into a handstand, or your heels touch the floor in downward dog.

When you start a regular yoga practice you begin to show up for yourself by taking responsibility for your physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual wellness too. By engaging in self-respect, if not self-love, you will raise your self-esteem.

Step 6: Give Dark Emotions Space to Be.

Yes, you read that correctly. First I told you to write out a joy-list, to add more of those experiences into your life, and to talk more about joy with everyone you meet.

Now I’m telling you to sit on the ground and do nothing.

Yes, I mean literally.

Meditation is a way to open yourself up and to be more of yourself by feeling connected to everyone and everything.

Meditation will unleash your joy in a way nothing else can.

Sitting and watching your thoughts glide past as you focus on your breath will unleash some negative emotions.

The noise and business of life can block out the anger, sadness, shame, and fear. All of those emotions can bubble up while you sit still, in silence. You may have been unaware they were just below the surface.

Do you know what is gorgeous about giving dark emotions space to surface? It may take weeks, or months, or years, but the fear will seep away.

With time, the negative emotions will roll through you without invoking a knee-jerk reaction to smother them with food, entertainment, noise, achievement, work, or positive experiences.

You will be able to allow anger, sadness, pain, and fear to flow in without losing your balance.

You will be able to stop running and to stop grasping, knowing all things pass, and this, whatever it is, will move too.

TAKE ACTION:

Step 1: Write your daily, monthly, and year JOY-LISTS.

Step 2: Schedule JOY into your daily life, as well as mini-month joy-cations.

 Step 3: Relate to people in a new way by asking and sharing sources of joy.

Step 4: Turn the conversation to sources of happiness instead of negativity, gossiping, or complaining.

Step 5: Yoga Time: Find a YouTube video or head to your local yoga studio.

Step 6: Meditate. You can start with just five minutes a day to make a difference. 

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Heather Lenz, a writer, yoga instructor, wellness coach, and CEO of the wellness company Delicious Glow. She wishes you to feel empowered to live your definition of a healthy, happy, and more purpose-filled life.