Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gratitude Around the Table

Sitting down to eat is one of the easiest places for us to incorporate mindfulness and gratitude into our lives.

We have to eat many times a day, and so it is an ideal opportunity to take a deep breath, center our selves, and express our gratitude for the nurishment of our bodies.

An added benefit is that studies show that people who pause before eating, and eat in a calm, mindful manner, eat less, and digest what they eat much more fully. This is also a good way to heal the disjointed and unhealthy relationship many of us Westerners tend to have with food as a result of eating too fast and on the run, consuming poor quality food, and fixations with our weight and appearance.

Here is one offering for a meal time prayer from the Zen tradition known as,
Gokan-no-ge, the "Five Reflections."

First, let us reflect on our own work and the effort of those who brought us this food.

Second, let us be aware of the quality of our deeds as w
e receive this meal.

Third, what is most essential is the practice of mindfulness, which helps us to transcend greed, anger and delusion.

Fourth, we appreciate this food which sustains the good health of our body and mind.

Fifth, in order to continue our practice for all beings we accept this offering.

You can read more about this tradition, here.

As you sit down for you next meal, take the time to take a deep breath, and give thanks for the pleasure and benefits that food provides.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letting Go Is the Real Path to Freedom

Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom.

Sogyal Rinpoche
Glimpse After Glimpse

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gratitude and the Power of Healing Touch

The immense power of our touch cannot be underestimated. Nothing can be more soothing, comforting and healing, then then simple gesture of someone laying their hand on our back.

Touch has the ability to activate our parasympathetic nerveous system, or the "relaxation response", and this shift in feeling and body chemistry can create a little space, a little light at the end of the tunnel, for someone who is suffering. Since over 80% of our communication as human beings is non-verbal, sometimes these small, simple gestures of touch can say more completely what it is we have in our heart to express. At time words can get in the way; they seem inadequate in expresssing the enormity of your love and compassion. Touch, when offered with lovingkindness and respect, never falls short.

As a mindfulness exercise today, find a person to offer your healing touch to. Remember to be respectful in the way that you offer this, a hand on the upper back or shoulder is usually a "safe place" for most people to recieve that offering.

Also, take time to recognized and acknowledge with gratitude the loving touches that you receive. The next time you receive a hug, really experience it. Linger and let the energy from that person's heart mingle with your own. If you are feeling a bit low today and could use some healing touch, ask for it! Everyone loves to give a hug. Go up to a friend and say, "I am feeling a little sad, could you give me a hug." I promise you will be responded to with delight.

One more thought on the power of touch. If you are struggling through a difficult time in your life, or if you have hardship and trauma in your past, consider body work as a part of your healing process. The body and brain literally store these emotions and experiences. If we only process them on a mental level, through counseling or other modalities, we never fully release these samskaras, or patterns, from the body. Deep tissue massage, Reiki, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, and Watsu, are only a few of the body work methods that can help you to release these stored emotions and live a fully present and realized life.

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