Tag Archives: heart consciousness

Mindfulness and Dharma Talks with Tara Brach

The past two months I’ve witnessed my head space and thoughts move to a better place due to Washington D.C. based meditation teacher, Tara Brach. I first heard about her thanks to Maria Popova over at brainpickings. Through listening to her dharma talks via podcast and using some of the guided meditations on her webpage I have found deeper compassion for myself and a healthier way of viewing the world. Her teachings offer a chance to move from victim-hood to being an agent of change in your own life and others.

If you have the opportunity to scroll through her past talks Parts 1 and 2 about the “Power of Self-Compassion,” will give you new insight into the human condition and how to deal with it.

One titled, “Earth’s Crisis,” created an arena for me to deal with my own fears regarding the worldwide ecological crisis.

A Generous Heart,” explores not only why generosity and giving make us feel so good, but how creating that space in our heart can actually help us heal ourselves and our relationships with others.

Perhaps my favorite part of the podcast, aside from the peaceful state of mind it puts me in and the space for reflection on current issues in my life it creates, is all of the great quotes, anecdotes, poems, and comics she shares with the audience. From Rumi to Emerson to comics about things like a mouse with a cat psychiatrist, and everything in between, Brach infuses each lecture with references that either make you laugh or truly do inspire. Here are just a few that I’ve enjoyed so far.

  1. From Paul Hawken’s 2009 commencement speech, “In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
  1. Also from the same speech, “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.
  2. From Cami Walker, No matter how much we have materially, we are often in a place of scarcity. We never think we have enough or that we’re good enough. Instead of getting lost in a sense of lack, once we realize we are part of something bigger, it becomes clear we have many gifts to offer the world.”
  3. From George Eliot:

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard, 
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.

  1. Joanna Macy’s poem, “Bestiary.
  2. From Rumi,

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
    and rightdoing there is a field.
    I’ll meet you there.

    When the soul lies down in that grass
    the world is too full to talk about.”

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Compassion, Forgiveness, and a Case for the Usefulness of Scripture When Viewed as Metaphor

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Although I don’t adhere to a particular religion, I deeply appreciate lessons gleaned from the study of religious texts and their application to modern life. Without this formation, I am not sure how I would have dealt with an unfortunate scene I witnessed one day last month. After seeing a mob-sized crowd belittle a small group of gypsy beggars I found myself feeling angry and helpless at the same time, full of disgust for what humans are capable of at times. It was the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha that helped bring me back to center, back to homeostasis and balance.

Joseph Campbell approached each religion as if he were studying mythology, rather than fact. It allowed him to view the teachings as metaphors he could apply to his own life and teach others how to use in their own, rather than a set of rules imposed upon us as an inescapable obligation. In The Power of Myth he states:

“In the study of comparative mythology, we compare the images in one system with the images in another, and both become illuminated because one will accent and give clear expression to one aspect of meaning, and another to another. They clarify each other.

When I started teaching comparative mythology, I was afraid I might destroy my students’ religious beliefs, but what I found was just the opposite. Religious traditions, which didn’t mean very much to them, but which were the ones their parents had given them, suddenly became illuminated in a new way when we compared them with other tradition, where similar images had been given a more inward or spiritual interpretation.

I had Christian students, Jewish students, Buddhist students, a couple of Zoroastrian students – they all had this experience. There’s no danger in interpreting the symbols of a religious system and calling them metaphors instead of facts. What that does is to turn them into messages for your own inward experience and life. The system suddenly becomes a personal experience.”

Liverpool football club was in town to play against Real Madrid. As I walked home through the historic center I heard groups singing football songs and smiled, as I always enjoy the camaraderie the fans share amongst themselves. My smile and feelings of good cheer faded as I made my way into Plaza Mayor. The scene reminded me of a medieval hanging, but rather than gathering around the gallows the jeering crowd had encircled a group of gypsy woman. They laughed and hollered as they threw coins at the woman and watched them scramble to collect them, sometimes falling over one another in an attempt to get the coin first. They threw empty beer cans at the women and sprayed beer and one fellow even circled around them swinging a towel over his head as if he were herding farm animals.

The British tourist were treating these women like subhumans, while in my eyes of the moment they were the ones who looked like pigs. I grew more upset once I noticed how many people were filming the “spectacle” as if it were something they could share and laugh about later, boosting their own egos. To make matters worse, there were fathers with their children joining in. When I could no longer contain my anger I entered the circle and turned towards the section of the crowd closest to me. I shouted, asking how they could be filming such a thing and that the whole thing was a disgrace. I was met with furious stares and told to “shut the fuck up.” Where does that kind of hate come from?

Seething with negative emotions, I walked home. I thought about everything I had ever learned about Jesus and his limitless capacity for forgiveness as I struggled to forgive this mob. I considered how even Buddhist teachers often turn to Jesus as an example for compassion, recalling S. Goenka’s lectures from a Vipassana course I had attended. As I began to calm down a little bit I looked for forgiveness in my heart and found some, but it certainly wasn’t limitless. How could Jesus forgive those who crucified him even as they committed the act? It was clear I had to dive deep into my heart and search for some morsel of understanding before I could forgive and move on with peace of mind.

Luckily, that very afternoon I came across an article from an old issue of Spirituality & Health magazine. The article was “The Four Aspects of Love,” by Thicht Nhat Hanh, but what stuck with me was a story about the author from Karen Bouris’s introduction:

Twenty years ago, the Rodney King riots had just exploded in Los Angeles, and the image of a fallen man being beaten by police replayed itself over and over on television sets everywhere. That same week, I went to a talk at the Berkeley Community Theatre featuring Thich Nhat Hanh.

The auditorium filled with thousands of people as this small man in robes, little known to me at the time, took the stage. He immediately started talking about the newsthe beating, the riots, the events in Los Angeles that were triggering anger around the world. He spoke about his sadness for the beaten man. And then he spoke about his even greater sadness for the men doing the beatingthe rage they must have had inside and the deep suffering that would cause them to act out in this way. You could hear a pin drop as the audience took in his words, his understanding, and his compassion for every person in this struggle.” See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/four-aspects-love#sthash.2TAYAhaE.dpuf

Suddenly it clicked and I had a deeper understanding of where the hate I watched unfold that afternoon has come from. It was the same hate that stemmed from the “deep suffering” of the men dealing the beatings in the Rodney King riots, the same hate that always seems to grow from an inner wound only to express itself in some heartless way. In my own heart I felt some piece of the boundless forgiveness Jesus bestowed upon the world and the compassion that Buddha’s dharma teaches. The forgiveness archetype that runs through all of the world’s myths and religions in various shapes in forms. In appreciation for the peace it brought me I radiated that love to the young man who looked the angriest and shouted with the most rage, the voice and the image that had affected me the most.

The Hidden Power of the Heart Free Download…until Dec. 26th

This blog is a space for sharing teachings and knowledge that carry the potential to unlock our own innate healing abilities.  I am a huge fan of what is going on at the Institute of HeartMath and excited to have the opportunity to share this free gift they are offering until December 26th.  The gift is the ebook updated version of The Hidden Power of the Heart: Discovering and Unlimited Source of Intelligence.  If this resonates with you then take a look at what the Insitute of Heartmath has to say about their free gift and then follow the link to their facebook page to download a copy of your own.

Each of us has a magnificent power within that can fulfill us with hope and empower us to live our lives to our greatest potential. Tools and how-to for unlocking possibilities of love, compassion and peace. New mind-expanding topics include holographic awareness, the dimensional shift and DNA blueprints. You will discover a hidden power available to everyone! Click link for free download, http://www.heartmath.org/fb/giveaway/ihm

Finding Community, Finding Health

community

I’ve recently read two interesting articles touting the importance of community for our health and how loneliness can effect it negatively. In one article, Dr. Lissa Rankin presents the idea that eradicating loneliness from our life is a form of preventative medicine because scientific research has shown the risk factor for illness due to lack of exercise or smoking is less than that of loneliness. In another, Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect, explores the health benefits brought on by living in a village. If the feeling of being alone can affect our health in a negative manner, then community should have a positive effect.

Dr. Rankin presented the case of a group of Italian immigrants who settled in Roseto, Pennsylvania. Despite their love of fried meatballs, heavy and starch-laden meals, smoking, and alcohol consumption the community was incredibly healthy when compared to national averages. Researchers who examined the group came to the following conclusion, “…the tight knit community living in multi-generational homes and enjoying communal dinners and frequent festivities provided solace from the loneliness so many people feel. The love and support of others in the close knit community alleviated the stress and overwhelm many lonely people feel. Researchers posit that the stress lonely people feel, which increases cortisol levels and activates the sympathetic nervous system, raising heart rate, elevating blood pressure, incapacitating the immune system, and increasing the risk of heart disease, is responsible for much of the illness lonely people experience.”

Susan Pinker lays out the benefits of community like this: “When you are getting together face to face, there are a lot of biological phenomena: Oxytocin and neurotransmitters get released, they reduce stress and allow us to trust others. Physical contact unleashes a whole chain of events that make us and make the other person feel good, and affects our health and well-being.”

According to Pinker, research suggests that humans have never been as lonely as we currently are. Her book investigates how people who live in small villages continue to receive the benefits of community, while those living in the modern world may not. She notes that it isn’t realistic for us all to go live in small villages and is sure to point out that she doesn’t want to romanticize village living, but there are things we could stand to learn from the village model. She offers the following tips: “You can create your own village effect. Get out of your car to talk to your neighbors. Talk in person to your colleagues instead of shooting them emails. Build in face-to-face contact with friends the way you would exercise. Look for schools where the emphasis is on teacher-student interaction, not on high-tech bells and whistles.

Through personal experience I have come up with a few more tips of my own. I had the privilege of serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. In doing so I lived in a small Mayan village in the Western highlands. While it is crucial to point out, as Pinker did, that village living should not be romanticized and every town has its own share of issues, the advantages of a small community are obvious. You know people, they help you out, when you can you repay the favor. Round and round it goes.

Coming back from Guatemala was a bigger culture shock than moving there in the first place. I found myself in supermarkets checking-out with cashiers with little time for small talk as they kept the line moving. When I smiled or greeted people on the streets I felt like a crazy person, rather than a well-intentioned fellow citizen. I went from sharing afternoons with farmers who have all day to chat after their morning work, to wondering if the person across from me who keeps glancing at their cell phone is even listening to half of what I was saying.

Susan Pinker talked about creating our own village effect and here are some ways I was unknowingly able to do just that upon returning from village life (most of these were employed in Madrid). This sort of thing takes time and patience, but has the chance to greatly alter your quality of life.

  1. Shop in small, family-run stores or co-ops. Know your grocer.  Know your butcher if possible.  If you eat bread find a local baker. At the right shops or markets you may even have the pleasure of knowing the person who grows your food.
  2. Become a regular at a restaurant or coffee shop. This can be trickier than it sounds, some places I go all the time and nobody knows me, at others I have a great time.
  3. Meet your local homeless people. How many homeless people do you know by name? Everyone has their story. If you walk to work in a city there are endless opportunities to meet people you can interact every single day and make a part of your life.
  4. Value your current family and friends, this is the ideal place to invest the majority of your time.
  5. Join groups that interest you or learn a new hobby.
  6. Volunteer.
  7. Skip the ATM and meet your bank teller.
  8. If your around when the postman (or woman) comes get to know them. It wasn’t so long ago families knew their milkman, paperboy, and postman.
  9. Put your phone away while talking with others. To really receive the benefits of connection and communication we need to be PRESENT.
  10. While walking around town allow your intuition to guide you into new situations. This usually happens if you aren’t lost in stressful thoughts.  Last week I stumbled into an Italian cafe and ended up making plans to start a language exchange with the barista. Last night I happened upon a good deal for a meal and ended up meeting a fellow English teacher.

Everyone has their own recipe for finding community. Above all be patient and gentle with yourself. The love of a community starts with self-love on the inside of each of us. When you start to love yourself you will know what your heart wants and following that can help lead to community.

Scientific Studies Validate What Our Hearts Have Been Intuitively Telling Us For Millenia

heartmath

I had the pleasure of rounding out Thanksgiving weekend by reading some great articles about the heart.  Many of us have felt the intuitive power of the heart.  Those of us who have been sick may have seen how our emotions affected our health.  We talk about how when you live from your heart you will be aligned with all that is.  At the Institute of HeartMath they call this “heart coherence” and they have been working on making it scientific fact.

Please enjoy this article about “heart coherence” and heart consciousness and follow it up with this video from the IHM that conveys the information visually.

“The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. Compared to the electromagnetic field produced by the brain, the electrical component of the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and permeates every cell in the body. The magnetic component is approximately 5000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body with sensitive magnetometers.”

A big thanks and shout-out to the Institute of HeartMath, everyone involved there, and all of the incredible work that is being done.