Friday, December 31, 2010

More evidence

The folks at Care 2 sent me an email this morning that contained a link to an article with the following headline:

Meditation Affects Blood Flow to the Brain

Unsurprising, really.

Here's part of what it says:

Scientists at the Almanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California Los Angeles studied the effects of meditation on the “stress” circuits of the brain. Ten experienced meditators performed two types of meditation: a focus-based meditative technique and a breath-based practice. The meditators’ brains were scanned using MRI technology before starting, during the meditation practices, and following meditation.

Researchers found that four regions of the brain were affected during meditation and there were different patterns of blood flow to the brain between the two types of meditation states; however, both techniques improved blood flow to the brain. Some of the brain changes continued even after meditation stopped.
You know, if you've been meditating for a while you can almost feel that happening.

Give yourself a wonderful gift for the new year! Meditate regularly. Think of it this way: you will not regret consistent meditation. You may well regret not bothering to meditate.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Observations, judgments, that sort of thing...

A friend of mine just sent me the following:
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood.

The next morning, while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean," she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap."

Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this."

The husband said, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the window through which we look.
Of course, nobody hangs out wash anymore - at least in the United States. More's the pity.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Something about the craving to understand

Here's a Zen saying that I may well have posted before but it certainly bears repeating:
If you understand, things are just as they are;
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
If we ponder this a while, it can be a real help. I know many people are tormented when they don't understand something. Realizing that things are just as they are can help us let go of that craving to understand.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging

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Great thought from a great musician

I accept life unconditionally. Life holds so much--so much to be happy about always. Most people ask for happiness on condition. Happiness can be felt only if you don't set conditions.

-- Artur Rubinstein

To put this in meditation language, he is recommending that we learn to accept without judgment. It makes a huge difference in our sense of well being. Truly it does.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Artist: André Dauthuille

And let us not neglect kindness...

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Well! We could label this a selfish reason for being unselfish, I guess. Take a look at this headline: ~
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Can Kindness Cut the Risk of Heart Disease?

Here's an excerpt:
We produce [the hormone] oxytocin when we bond with each other. Having quality relationships increases its levels. But another way to bond with someone is through a simple act of kindness. And this might just be good for the heart.

Exciting research has revealed that oxytocin plays a powerful role throughout the cardiovascular system.

As well as being produced in the brain, it is also produced in the heart and travels throughout our blood vessels. There, it is believed to increase nitric oxide production (not nitrous oxide, which is laughing gas!). The nitric oxide then dilates our blood vessels, reducing blood pressure.
...
Research now shows that oxytocin also has a powerful effect on free radical and inflammation levels, which are two of the central culprits in coronary artery disease. Excess inflammation, for instance, leads to a buildup of arterial plaque that can result in a heart attack.
So. Loving-kindness is good for the heart. We've known that deep down for a long time, haven't we?

It's not only good for the heart, it's good for moving toward enlightenment.

You just can't beat a combination like that!
~~~

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

"It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling--the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We. Are. Connected.

This is quite meaningful - if we will let it be so:

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.

-- Donald E. Westlake

It's about connectedness, isn't it?

Here's something else in that regard:


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Calming down

Beliefnet has a little article called "7 Quick Ways to Calm Down " that you might want to check out.

Here's one of the suggestions:
Years ago, I learned the "Four Square" method of breathing to reduce anxiety:

1. Breathe in slowly to a count of four.
2. Hold the breath for a count of four.
3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips to a count of four.
4. Rest for a count of four (without taking any breaths).
5. Take two normal breaths.
6. Start over again with number one
The other suggestions might be helpful to you as well. Check them out. It's good to have some strategies up our sleeve for this hectic time of the year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging

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Why meditate?

I just came across a little article entitled "Why Learn to Meditate?" on a website called "How to Meditate". Here's how it gets started:
The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Do click through and read the rest of it. It's very short.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday art blogging

Ironic observation for the season

I've always loved Ogden Nash. Here's something I just discovered today. Somehow, it relates to meditative practice in my mind! :-)

People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December.

-- Ogden Nash

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advice concerning "the human problem"

I guess he wanted something that sounded really "profound" to say or maybe he wanted to come up with something no one else had thought of exactly. But this is it, actually. I do think so.

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than "try to be a little kinder".

-- Aldous Huxley

By the way, if you've never gotten around to spending some time with Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Still more on kindness

I have blogged the following quotation before, I know, because I remember that someone took issue with it. But since we're focusing on the subject of kindness this week it seemed appropriate to offer it again:

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.

-- Og Mandino

Here's one way of looking at it. A great many of the people that you meet or speak to in a given day are going to die before you do. Therefore, at some point in your life, something you say will turn out to be the last thing you say to that person. In most cases, we will never know when that is going to be.

Another way of looking at it is to ask if we would want our last words to someone or our last act toward someone to be words and acts of unkindness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kindness and regret

Very interesting that the founder of Forbes Magazine would say the following. I would imagine that he knew quite a few millionaires in his day:

I've never known any human being, high or humble, who ever regretted, when nearing life's end, having done kindly deeds. But I have known more than one millionaire who became haunted by the realization that they had led selfish lives.

--B. C. Forbes

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging

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More on kindness

First of all, I want to ask you to check the comments to the post below (from yesterday) entitled "A way of living and walking through life". Really cool, huh?

Now, we continue our series on kindness. Let's begin by remembering that, according to the meditative tradition, the universal motivation is the wish to be happy. People do what they do because they are trying to be happy. They may, at times, be truly mistaken about what will actually advance that goal, but that's what they're doing fundamentally.

I think we can all see, therefore, how taking the following on board would not only help us in our aspirations but would revolutionize the world if enough people understood it or were simply willing to test it out:

Kindness is closely linked with happiness: the kinder you are to others, the happier you will be.

-- Mary Jaksch (Zen master and psychotherapist)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday art blogging

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Artist: August Macke

A way of living and walking through life

The Dalai Lama has famously been quoted as saying, "My religion is kindness." There's much to be said for that approach.

More than anything else, kindness is a way of life. It is a way of living and walking through life. It is a way of dealing with all that is--our selves, our bodies, our dreams and goals, our neighbors, our competitors, our enemies, our air, our earth, our animals, our space, our time, and our very consciousness. Do we treat all creation with kindness? Isn't all creation holy and divine?

- Jean Maalouf

I think it would be a good idea for us to focus on kindness for the next few days here at Meditation Matters. I'll see what I can find.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More about the present moment

This is the "one day at a time" principle. So, true; so consoling:

Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

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Something about feelings

Many people assert to me that they can't do something unless they "feel like it". Here's something about that:

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.

-- Pearl S. Buck

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Something about regret

Slowly, slowly, I'm sorting through the leftovers from the Center's latest garage sale and deciding what to keep and what to give to Goodwill. This morning I came across a little paperpack book entitled The Joy of Being Human by Eugene Kennedy. Here's a short passage that caught my attention:
Beware if you find that you are blaming other persons for your own difficulties in life. This may be the chief sign by which to diagnose an imminent case of personal regret. The individual who continually justifies his or her own lack of initiative by accusing everyone of duplicity or bad faith in not giving the recognition he or she deserves is almost certainly going to end up bitter and regretful. This is not to say that injustice does not exist; it is to point to a pattern of passivity which puts the burden for our success or achievement on others rather than on ourselves.
Personally, I think this tends to happen because we've been socialized (at least in the U.S.) to believe that, if anything bad happens, someone has to be to blame. It's utterly demoralizing always to blame oneself and so people tend to look for someone else to blame. What would happen if we simply let go of the concept of blame as such altogether? Perhaps establishing blame is helpful from a legal point of view but it rarely supports our ability to heal and get on with our lives.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

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Change

One of the fundamental principles of meditative practice is acknowledging the reality of impermanence. It's intriguing, really, how we welcome change at times and are averse to it at others. Here's an interesting and somewhat wryly humorous way of looking at that:

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in travelling in a stage-coach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position and be bruised in a new place.

-- Washington Irving

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Both tender and profound

How lovely. How true:

Keep a good heart. That's the most important thing in life. It's not how much money you make or what you can acquire. The art of it is to keep a good heart.

-- Joni Mitchell

Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging

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I particularly value and appreciate images of gates, doors and windows (they are so symbolic of openness and movement) and so I was delighted when Cynthia sent me the above photo this morning.

Appreciating a blessing

The assertion that not appreciating a blessing is a tragedy strikes me as very true indeed:

In our current state of human development it remains unclear whether we will correct one of life's greatest tragedies, namely, the inability to appreciate a blessing until it is lost.

--Shmuley Boteach

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sunday art blogging

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Artist: August Macke

Taking stock

How interesting. The Good Housekeeping website has a little feature called 52 ways to beat stress. Here's one of them:
Study Yourself: Ask yourself the following questions, preferably on a daily basis, to develop objectivity on how stress is affecting your life: How did I sleep? What is my mood? How did I respond when something unexpected happened? How does my body feel? Did I have any time to myself? Taking stock in this way can help you see your relationship with stress more clearly, which helps you develop a stress-reduction plan that fits your unique needs.
This is a mindfulness practice, isn't it? Consistent meditation will help us in both asking and answering these questions.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Keeping ourselves present

I get a lot of mileage each day from the "Care 2" site. Today a little article entitled 8 Morning Activities to Keep You Present All Day was offered. Needless to say, I approve of the first activity suggested:

1. Meditate in the morning, even if it’s only for five minutes. As soon as you get out of bed, sit in a comfortable position (away from your bed, to avoid the temptation of going back to sleep). Rather than mentally rushing through the daily to-do list or remorse over your poor quality of sleep, allow your mind to soak in the subtle noises that can only come from the start of a brand new day. Do you hear birds chirping, other family members cooking breakfast? Focus on your in breath and out breath, one lungful of air at a time. Do this every morning, and your days will feel sharper, clearer and more full of life.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

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Assumptions

Here's a little quotation I found. There's a lot to this, you know:

Beware of assumptions! Whatever you assume to be possible -- or impossible will have a tendency to become real for you.

-- Source unknown

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Listening

Compassion makes this possible. Yes, skill is involved as well, but compassion is the foundation:

When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. I have deeply appreciated the times that I have experienced this sensitive, empathic, concentrated listening.

-- Carl Rogers