On Focus & Mindfulness

Mindfulness is defined as an attention training which can benefit health and general well-being. There is a lot scientific research confirming it. In this article we will present the other type of attention training called Open Focus. We believe, combining these two approaches may help to understand attention training better and to experience its benefits faster.

 What Is Mindfulness?

In its most basic form, Mindfulness means to pay attention to what’s happening, on purpose, in the present moment, and to do so without judgement. Originally from Buddhist roots, it was introduced into the West by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin and the University of Massachusetts. Since its appearance in the West around twenty years ago, many people have participated in the Mindfulness based stress reduction course and similar programs. Research shows that participants may experience profound benefits such as reduced stress, a greater sense of well-being, increased clarity and focus, and improved sleeping patterns.

According to Dr. Kabat-Zin, by paying attention in a certain way, we can switch off our so-called autopilot mode, in which we often go through life unaware of what’s happening within and around us. Living on autopilot not only means that we miss out on a lot of the richness of life, but we are also more likely to be stressed. Stress and autopilot are linked because when we are on autopilot, we are much more likely to act out unhelpful or even damaging patterns of behaviour. In other words, we react instead of respond to challenging experiences in our life. Mindfulness helps us to become aware of these habitual patterns and gives us a choice to change how we relate to challenging experiences. It’s not about taking stress away or hoping to live a life without any stress, but rather fundamentally changing how we relate to the things we experience.

On the other hand, many of us spend much of our time living in our heads. We live in a kind of virtual reality consisting of thoughts and inner dialogue, and thoughts tend to relate either to the past or to the future. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to return to the present and to what’s actually happening rather than our perceptions of what’s happening, which are often inaccurate. We practice it by cultivating greater somatic awareness — that is, awareness of the body, because the body is always in the present moment.

Ultimately, the more we practice Mindfulness and observe the changing nature of experience, the more we may begin to sense that what we previously thought of as being tangible and solid, such as our sense of self, is actually quite transitory and ephemeral. We may begin to understand what lies beyond objects arising in awareness such as sensations, thoughts, and emotions. We may begin to experience awareness itself. This is an extremely significant moment in practice and in life, when we start to experience ourselves as something greater than what we observe and our sense of being the observer.

In Mindfulness, attention generaly focuses on one object (such as the breath, sensations in the body, thoughts, or emotions), exploring it with a sense of curiosity and interest. Another way Mindfulness can be practiced is through Open Monitoring or Open Awareness, where no particular object of experience is selected and there is an openness to all that is unfolding within awareness. Here too, however, as various objects pass through awareness, attention is often paid to each object in a narrowly focused way

What Is Open Focus?

Open Focus is the name of an attention training program created by Dr. Lester Fehmi, a neuroscientist and psychologist from Princeton University. Dr. Fehmi found that once our whole brain activity becomes more synchronous in alpha frequency, our mental and physical health improves. He created a series of mind exercises that help to cultivate this brainwave pattern, and he designed a neurofeedback EEG machine that can detect it.

On the basis of his findings, Dr. Fehmi developed The Four Attention Styles theory, which describes four different ways we can pay attention, and relates these styles to brain physiology.

According to Dr Fehmi, pain, stress, anxiety, and other challenges make our attention narrow and objective. It is natural to narrow our attention (focus) on pain or a problem in order to deal with it efficiently, but most people overuse this style in everyday life. They are unaware that it keeps them in continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode. Moreover, habitual focusing creates an impression that the reality consists of separated objects, since we can focus on only one thing at a time, leaving the rest outside of our focus. It can make us feel distant, alienated, and lonely.

Dr. Fehmi says we can begin relating to what’s difficult in a more balanced, accepting way by diffusing our attention. Diffusing allows us to see the big picture and connect (immerse) with its elements. It helps to realign with the world and to create healthy relationships. This style is linked to the ‘rest and digest’ part of our physiology and makes the whole brain activity more synchronous in alpha frequency, which can be confirmed by Dr. Fehmi’s machine (see graph below).

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Dr. Fehmi suggests everyone’s attention should be flexible, meaning that you can alternate between ‘narrow and objective’ and ‘diffused and immersed’ styles of attention or balance all at the same time. Dr. Fehmi says that the way we pay attention is directly linked to our well-being. Once you are able to balance your attention, you can positively influence your mind and body.

During Open Focus training, we practice diffusing by becoming simultaneously aware of many objects. The object can be everything you can focus on, like a physical object, a sound, a taste, a thought, a feeling, a sensation from the body, etc. Then you can progress to awareness of the space between objects, like the space between physical objects, the silence between sounds, or the breaks between thoughts, etc. Finally, you become aware of space between and inside objects which, according to Dr. Fehmi, helps us achieve diffused and immersed style. In this style of attending, all objects (including yourself) dissolve in space and you immerse with reality, becoming fully connected.

Open Focus and Mindfulness are not distinct and competing practices but rather highly complementary.

Mindfulness helps us to learn to pay attention to our experience and to notice how we are relating to it. Open Focus then builds upon the benefits and skills of Mindfulness by training us not just to pay attention, but to be more aware of how we are paying attention and to be more flexible in our attention styles.

We then have the benefits of two complementary practices available to us: learning to pay attention and being flexible in how we pay attention. We could say that Mindfulness is an excellent foundation for Open Focus training and that Open Focus helps us to get the most from Mindfulness training.

What Can Open Focus Offer Mindfulness?

As mentioned, much Mindfulness practice is based on a narrow way of paying attention (that is, we are focused on one object). Although it is useful in helping us to be more aware of what is happening in the moment, overusing this style may lead to tightness and overexertion in unexperienced practitioners, since many people think they have a choice of staying watchful (mindful) of what is happening, or they slip into daydreaming. They keep trying harder and it makes them exhausted and it sometimes leads to frustration and disappointment.

We therefore propose that Open Focus can bring to Mindfulness the idea of paying attention in the diffused style and the concept of attention flexibility.

Mindfulness practitioners who learn how to diffuse their attention may find that it helps them to progress. There are several reason for this.

The diffused attention style tends to quickly quiet internal chatter. For example, it is sometimes enough to become aware of sensations coming from both hands and at the same time to sense peace and calmness of the mind. It is because synchronous alpha brain waves play a top-down inhibitory role in the brain network. The quiet mind makes observing without judgment much easier.

In diffused attention style, you do not redirect your attention from one object to another, but  rather redistribute it between many objects, which are attended at the same time. The only way to do it is to attend objects in a very soft (less rigid, relaxed) way. This skill can then be used in everyday life. For example, you can stay continuously aware of breathing while listening to someone talking to you and there is no struggle between competing objects in your awareness. It helps to continuously sense the present moment and it has very practical applications (see this post).

It is important to note that in this style, one of the objects you pay attention to could be your daydreaming. Including daydreaming into the diffused attention helps to reduce struggle with it during practice. It is possible (and quite easy) to accept daydreaming as one of many objects you pay attention to (see this post). It can be easily extended to everyday life and it helps to stay present.

In order to become fully aware of the world, it can be helpful to cultivate a more diffused than focused attention style. Focused attention requires one to cut off a lot of what is really happening around us and it restricts experience to a narrow stream of sensations. In the diffused attention style, you are aware of the object and its background (see this post). This may broaden the perspective, helping to put things into context. It may also help to disable an autopilot and develop one’s ability to respond as opposite to reacting.

As mentioned previously, Open Focus exercises cultivate an awareness of space around and inside objects. Once a practitioner is aware of space inside the object, it may become softer, lighter, and easier to be with and observe (for example when we attend an unwanted emotion). By switching to a diffused attention style, the difficulty may be diluted by a broader spectrum of attention. This could be likened to putting a teaspoon of salt in an egg cup filled with water and tasting it — the water would taste very salty. If the same teaspoon of salt were put in a swimming pool, it would be difficult to taste the salt. Mindfulness enables us to be aware that there is salt in the water, but Open Focus allows us to experience the salt in the context of the swimming pool rather than the egg cup!

The diffused and immersed attention style helps to dissolve objects like pain or unwanted feelings. Mindfulness practitioners are sometimes encouraged to bring attention to an ache in the back and to observe how this ache feels, exploring how it would be to allow the ache to be there. In Open Focus, they might feel the ache but at the same time feel the space around and in the ache together with the space in the room. In addition, they might imagine that we are part of the ache itself, allowing themselves to become immersed in the ache. This sometimes makes the pain or feeling softer, blurred with its background, and then it may naturally and effortlessly dissolve. The dissolving pain and unwanted feelings process is well documented in Dr Fehmi’s book.


Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our experiences so that we can interrupt habitual patterns of relating to ourselves and the world that may not be helpful for us. Open Focus enhances Mindfulness practice by teaching us not just to pay attention, but to bring more awareness to how we are paying attention.

As this article has demonstrated, these are two highly complementary and mutually reinforcing practices. Ultimately, with both we can learn to be present and be flexible in how we are present, after which we may uncover an unlimited sense of peace and love that lies beneath the ‘noise’ that we are usually confronted with and try to suppress.

In scientific terms, this may be regarded as homeostasis; in more spiritual language, this may be regarded as revealing our true nature or higher self. These practices may lead us to fulfil our personal and evolutionary potential and to live lives with grace and ease.

How You Can Try Mindfulness and Open Focus

We could write a lot but more about Mindfulness and Open Focus, but the best way to know them is to feel them!

You can try some good Mindfulness exercises here: Breathing Into BeingTaking In The GoodSelf Compassion.

There is a choice of Open Focus exercises on Dr Fehmi’s and Tomasz’s website (the main difference is that most of Tomasz’s exercises are shorter and they are designed to introduce diffusing and to bring a quick and noticeable experience).


This article was written with Mrs. Sarah Gulland a Mindfulness teacher who works from London, Guildford and Sussex.

from:    http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/03/13/neuroscience-buddhism-uncovers-how-mindfulness-open-focus-can-drastically-change-your-life/

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation Makes Us More Aware Of Our Unconscious, Study Suggests

There’s just so much we aren’t aware of.

06/29/2016 02:24 pm ET |
  • Bahar Gholipour Senior Writer, The Huffington Post
  • iMrSquid via Getty Images
    “People can vary in how much access they have to the unconscious events happening in their brain,” says psychologist Peter Lush, whose new study suggests that meditation gives us better access to those unconscious states.

    Imagine being in a dark room holding a flashlight. You can only see where you’re pointing the light, and only what the light reaches. This room is your mind, and what the flashlight reveals is your limited awareness of it.

    But a new study suggests that people who practice meditation may extend the boundaries of how aware they are of their unconscious intentions. In other words, they might have a bigger flashlight.

    As scientists are increasingly realizing, our conscious awareness is only the tip of the iceberg — a lot of brain processes for which we take credit are in fact happening under the hood of our awareness. Some of this was shown in classical experiments in the 1980s carried out by psychologist Benjamin Libet: In those experiments, people were instructed to press a button at their leisure and watch the clock as they did it, then report the exact timing of their decision to press the button. However, electrodes placed on their scalps picked up on brain activity in areas controlling physical movement starting to ramp up a couple of hundred milliseconds before the time participants reported as the time of making the decision to move.

    This finding sparked a series of follow-up experiments and raised big questions. If the unconscious brain has already made the choice to move the finger, is our sense of agency only the story we tell ourselves after the fact? Do we have any say in the matter, or are we merely puppets?

    There’s no clear-cut answer to that question. But in the debates that followed, many researchers have argued that those experiments didn’t really measure free will. Instead, they measured how much high-level awareness we have when it comes to small things happening in our minds, such as intending to move a humble finger.

    Does high-level awareness ring a bell? Mindfulness meditation is supposed to increase exactly that — our awareness of internal processes, or “metacognition.” A meditator practices control over what to attend to (the breath, for example) and decides what other experiences are irrelevant and have to be let go (such as thoughts that pop up).

    “Mindfulness meditation is thus intrinsically an exercise in the (metacognitive) control and monitoring of mental processes,” psychologist Peter Lush and his colleagues at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K., wrote in their study, which was published on June 21 in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness.

    Lush and his team decided to test experienced meditators using a version of Libet’s experiments (minus the brain electrodes). They recruited 11 long-term meditators with at least three years of meditation practice and 36 undergraduate students without significant meditation practice.

    It turned out that experienced meditators seemed to be quicker in picking up on their intention to move the finger, reporting their intention to move about 150 milliseconds before the physical movement. Other participants reported their intention about 70 milliseconds before the movement.

    “We interpret this as meditators having an earlier access to their unconscious states,” Lush told The Huffington Post. “An intention can be unconscious. It’s only when you have a thought about that unconscious intention that it becomes conscious. And people can vary in how much access they have to the unconscious events happening in their brain.”

    The team also tested the degree to which the non-meditator participants were prone to hypnosis. While it’s not clear how exactly hypnosis works or even whether it’s a real phenomenon, researchers believe that it is possible for some people to enter a mental state in which they intentionally and voluntarily let go of their sense of agency.

    There are standard tests to figure out the level of this ability in people. Generally, about 10 percent of the population is categorized as highly hypnotizable. Another 10 percent is categorized as very hard to hypnotize. Everybody else is somewhere in the middle.

    The researchers found that those who could be easily hypnotized reported the timing of their intention to move later than those who were hard to hypnotize. In other words, people with high hypnotizability didn’t have early access to their unconscious intentions.

    Lush emphasized that these results don’t mean that meditators have more “free will” or that hypnotizable people have less. Rather, the findings suggest “that highly hypnotizable people on the one hand, and meditators on the other, lie at two ends of a spectrum of metacognition.”

    The study suggests that meditation can provide earlier access to our unconscious states, the researchers said. But to be certain that meditators didn’t start out with more aware brains in the first place, the team is conducting another study in which amateurs are trained in meditation, to see if that changes their performance.

    from:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/meditation-awareness_us_5773fe84e4b0352fed3ea9a4?cps=gravity_2676_-6368728665752109738&ir=GPS+for+the+Soul&kvcommref=mostpopular&section=us_gps-for-the-soul&utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul

    On Syncing with Nature

    Engaged Ecology: Seven Practices to Restore Our Harmony with Nature

    It has rained steadily through the night, a gentle hushing sound in the thick tree canopy. In the morning light, crickets thrill and every leaf trembles and gleams. Soft mist gently rises as the creek gushes along its deep habitual groove in Rose Valley, a place as beautiful as it sounds: my home.

    Amid such grace, one might forget the planet is in chaos. Wars rage… and the trees grow slowly. And yet, if one pays attention, the very poignancy of the Earth’s beauty is the reminder of her woundedness.

    Often, we don’t pay attention. Climate change, war, and extreme poverty are somewhere else. We have bills to pay and problems of our own. Yet anyone living a ‘modern life’ has contributed to the conditions on Earth that cause suffering. How and what we consume, the policies of our leaders, our forgetfulness, have a direct impact on other beings—human and non-human. Denial, greed, and fear are not limited to big corporations and banks.

    What then must we do? Can we live in such a way that we begin to reverse the damage? Can we reduce unnecessary suffering in the world and still take care of ourselves and our families?

    Ecology, a branch of science, examines relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Part biology, part Earth science, ecology looks at the vital connections between plants, animals, and the world. Ecology calls to mind the Buddhist principle of Interbeing. As Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh, (also called Thay), explains: you can hold an orange in your hand, but it does not really exist as an orange. That is, it does not exist apart from the tree, the sun, and rain, the soil and its organisms, the farmer, the truck driver, and so on. One could say the orange is actually made up of ‘non-orange elements’—a set of conditions that allow the orange to be here. If you really look at the orange, says my teacher, you can see the entire cosmos at play.

    Neither ecology nor Buddhist doctrine alone, however, tell us how to really take care of this fruit—to protect the soil where it grows from depletion, conserve the water it needs, or ensure the rights of the farm workers who tend it. We need something else.

    The Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss introduced the term ‘deep ecology’ in the 1980s. His concept, grounded in the teachings of Spinoza, Gandhi, and Buddha, explained that our cool, disembodied detachment from Nature and one another is an illusion, and he outlined a philosophy of being, thinking, and acting in the world—what he called ecosophy, an identification so deep that “one experiences oneself to be a genuine part of all life. We are not outside the rest of Nature,” says Næss, “and therefore cannot do with it as we please without changing ourselves.”

    Doing as we please for so long has changed us. For fifteen hundred years, Western religious and philosophical values taught us we were set apart from and above the rest of Nature. So it was fine to exploit and deplete the Earth’s natural resources. If other people were in the way, we just enslaved them or removed them. And if animals were in the way, we removed them too, killed them for sport, enclosed them, or destroyed their habitats.

    This kind of disconnection from Nature and from one another is the tragedy of our human story, the tale of darkness we have written ourselves into. It is a story that only ever served the few over the many, until finally the few have dwindled to a very small number of people who control more of the world’s wealth than everyone else combined. The inevitable result of such disparity is played out in innumerable ways and with devastating impact on the Earth and the human spirit. Like a child who hides from the mother out of shame for his wrongdoing, we have built barriers between ourselves and the natural world, invented false tales and excuses, unable to admit the terrible wrong we have done to the planet and to one another.

    And yet, this is not the whole story.

    Thay recounts that when he first heard the words from Genesis, “Let there be Light,” he imagined Light saying, “I will come when darkness comes.” And God said, “but the darkness is already here.” “Then,” said the Light, “I am already here as well.” What he means is that one can’t exist without the other. We contain both the seeds of darkness and the seeds of light within us. We have the capacity to generate terrible suffering and the capacity to generate great joy. A new story is already seeded within us, ready to flower. Its truth is found in Nature, in the reality of Interbeing. We are not separate from Nature. Rather, we are a grace note in its vast intelligent symphony. We are not adrift in a cold lifeless Universe. Instead we are a confluence of its vital energies and forces. Like the orange, we are woven into the very fabric of a radiant, vibrant living design.

    A few hours have passed now. The sky is clear and the air rich with the mushroomy smell of forest soil. Some crows startle and flow out of a single tree, slick shadows, blue-black. Crow is a trickster, associated with transformation and the mystery of life. Human beings think in such symbols because Nature’s forms deeply influence our subconscious. We see ourselves reflected back by the world around us. We associate Crow sometimes with despair—but also with the courage to return to life.

    Courage is one of the values we need so that conditions for joy and abundance can return. Our good intentions alone are not enough. Confronted with the terrible suffering in his homeland during the Vietnam War, Thích Nhất Hạnh, then a young monk, realized it was not enough to pray for peace or sit in meditation. In Saigon, he and his sangha responded quickly to render direct aid to the injured and refugee as part of their practice of mindfulness, not separate from it. Thay called this path ‘Engaged Buddhism” and outlined fourteen principles to describe it.

    A follower of these principles would quickly see how the values they contain have much in common with Deep Ecology. How we live our lives now has everything to do with how we will save ourselves and write a new story for our children and the world. We need an ‘Engaged Ecology’ that moves beyond concepts and energy-saving tips to actual deep practice—a way of being, thinking, and acting, that restores our relationship with our communities and the Earth. We need shared values, something we are often reluctant to propose. What values; whose values? Where can we possibly turn to find values so universal that anyone might embrace them?

    We can look to Nature.

    An Engaged Ecology is a set of values and instructions derived from Nature that can guide us back to harmony and restore our fundamental relationship with the Earth.

    Other wonderful teachers walk this terrain.

    The Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is an eloquent spokesperson for the Earth. He speaks of a world soul crying out to us, the very call of creation. “We will each hear this cry in our own way, as it touches our own soul, but what matters is how we respond— whether we turn away, returning to our life of distractions, or whether we dare to follow the call and sense what it is telling us.”

    German scholar Andreas Weber explores a ‘poetic ecology’ and speaks of Nature as the “living medium of our emotions and mental concepts,” a mirror for expressing our inner lives. In other words, our own intelligence is already a reflection of Nature’s. What else could it be? Daniel Goleman has suggested that this kind of ecological intelligence has a place beside social and emotional intelligence and we should teach this ‘ecoliteracy’ in our schools.

    The fields of permaculture and biomimicry have also turned to Nature for the inspiration and models we need to restore our most fundamental relationship. We are in chaos because we have blinded ourselves to the essential qualities and character of Nature. Nature cooperates and regenerates. Nature adapts, self-organizes, and uses energy efficiently. Biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus enumerated Nine Basic Principles of Biomimicry so that we might strive to consciously emulate Nature’s genius and use its principles and designs to solve human problems.

    Local Living Economy pioneer, Judy Wicks; lifelong peacebuilder Dot Maver, and the editor of this journal, Nancy Roof, have also contributed insight, particularly by vibrant example, about service to our communities and to our world.

    Thus, it is with a very deep bow of gratitude to Thay, these thinkers, and others, and with great humility that I have attempted to synthesize and integrate their ideas into Seven Principles and Practices for an Engaged Ecology. Each is invited to consider, interpret, and adapt these practices according to one’s own situation, capacities, and the needs of their communities.

    Principle 1 – Nature’s brilliant design is all-pervasive.

    Practice – Cultivating awareness of Nature

    Trusting that truth is found in Life, we strive to develop awareness by spending time observing and contemplating Nature. This can be as simple as working in a garden or meditating on a single flower. We can seek deep natural experiences without traveling to exotic locations. Even at work, we can quietly observe life within and around us. Drinking a glass of water with deep awareness or basking in the warm sun for a few minutes with gratitude are simple ways to remember our most primal connections.

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    Our breath is Life’s precious gift. Bringing our awareness to our own quiet breathing while sitting without distraction for even a few breaths is one way to come home to our true Nature. We can practice this any time to be refreshed and restored.

    Remembering that Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years, we begin the work of transforming our fear and healing our consciousness. We find that we can be happy simply because we are alive and supported by the Earth.

    Principle 2 – Nature adapts and self-regulates.

    Practice – Being open to learning and change

    Nature continuously adjusts to changing conditions. We are committed to seeking ways to educate ourselves in order to adjust our behaviors that cause damage to people and planet. We know we will not be able to change anything without changing ourselves first. We can learn new ways by seeking formal and informal education about the natural world around us: the names of trees and birds in our area, the quality of our watershed, where our food and the products we purchase come from.

    By practicing openness in our views, we benefit from the wisdom of others. In Nature, embracing diversity results in greater resilience. We will seek and value a diversity of views, paying special attention to the voice of the marginalized, including indigenous people. We may have strong views about what we think others should do, yet greater insight is revealed through the practice of careful listening and deep thinking. Accumulating facts is not wisdom. What we think we know is subject to change and no one has all the answers.

    Principle 3 – Nature expresses innate potential.

    Practice – Developing empathy for all forms of life

    All life has value in itself, and this value is not dependent on usefulness to humans. Aware that life is a vast web of interconnections, we will work to change our view that humans are superior to other forms of life on Earth and protect diversity.

    All living things are engaged in the process of unfolding their innate potential. We vow to recognize and encourage the potential of all beings, from the smallest multicellular life-forms, to people, ecosystems, and the Earth as a whole. We will not support acts that kill or destroy life, in our thinking or in our actions and way of life. We will examine the impact we have on non-human animals and make an effort to reduce their suffering. Industrial farming, animal testing, the use of animals for public entertainment, and hunting endangered animals all cause great suffering.

    We will practice looking deeply at the foods, clothing, and other products we consume and choose not to purchase or use them if they ‘contain’ the unnecessary suffering of people or animals. We can choose local and hand-made goods, Fair Trade and humane products, and simply live with less. By working closely with others, we will continually seek ways to protect the lives of people, plants and animals, minerals, ecosystems, and watersheds.

    Principle 4 – Nature regenerates and nurtures new life.

    Practice – Cherishing and nurturing the young

    Nature reproduces itself: the tender leaf, rosebud, the baby bird, tiny fish. Each new life, anywhere, at any scale, is Nature’s freshest gift of innocence and purity, fully deserving the most basic right—to live. Aware that a baby’s first breath ushers in new hope for the world, we vow to cherish, protect, and nurture new life.

    Knowing the seeds we plant in young minds will be the fruit our society reaps, we are committed to looking at all the ways children are affected by their environment. We will work to reexamine the purpose and goals of the educational system, understand the effects of excessive exposure to television, computer games, the Internet, and poisons in our food and in our water. We will work to support the concerns of mothers and children worldwide.

    photography | courtesy Rhonda Fabian

    We are committed to protecting children from sexual and military exploitation and other forms of physical abuse, anywhere in the world. We will create opportunities and encourage children to participate in activities outside in Nature. If our community is unsafe, we will work with other families to create places for children to play and be happy. We are committed to teaching children the proper way to treat and take care of pets, how to grow a flower, and how to relax and be peaceful. As adults, we will make decisions and plans that take into account the needs of children in our community, not just in the present, but also for generations to come.

    Principle 5 – Nature is efficient.

    Practice – Limiting consumption and waste

    Aware that Nature uses only what it needs, we too will make a diligent effort to consume only the energy we need and to reduce waste. We are determined not to waste the Earth’s precious resources while millions are hungry and lack the basic necessities of life. We will use and value renewable resources whenever possible and make every effort to reuse or recycle plastics, metals, and paper. We are committed to making our homes as energy efficient as we can and using natural means to make ourselves comfortable.

    We will consume in a way that promotes health and wellbeing in our bodies and consciousness. By eliminating our use of disposable plastic items, avoiding excessive packaging, and using less paper, we can reduce our personal waste stream right away. Moving from place to place, we will use biking, walking, public transportation, and ride-sharing when it is feasible.

    We commit to using seasonal foods that are produced locally when possible, and work to make sure our communities have access to healthy fresh food and safe public water supplies. We will nourish the collective body of our community and the Earth by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

    Principle 6 – Nature functions cooperatively.

    Practice – Thriving as a community

    By looking at Nature, we can learn ways that plants, animals, and other living things think and act cooperatively. It is not possible for one person or one business to act cooperatively or be sustainable. Sustainability is a community practice. The quality of relationships in any living community is determined by its collective ability to survive and thrive. We will practice coming together with groups of neighbors and friends to collectively seek ways to make our communities more healthy and resilient. We will focus on slow, small solutions, using local resources and responses whenever possible.

    By training ourselves in the practice of deep listening and positive speech, we will arrive at shared understanding in our community. Together, our excesses as a community can be curbed from within as we develop collective actions to reduce consumption and waste.

    Together, we should take a clear stand against actions that harm our community and planet, even when doing so may make difficulties for us or threaten our safety. We can set limits, for example, on carbon consumption, and use limits as a means to strengthen community and sharing. We can learn from Nature to creatively use and respond to the changes taking place in our community and in the world.

    Principle 7 – Nature is a system of systems.

    Practice – Participating as citizens of the Earth

    We are woven into the fabric of all Life and our actions have consequences. Aware of the violence and injustice done to our environment and societies, we are committed to using our time on Earth for efforts that benefit people and planet. We will do our best to select a livelihood that does not contribute to harming others. Aware of economic, political, and social systems around the world, and our interrelationship with these systems, we are determined to be responsible consumers and citizens of the Earth. We will make an effort to invest in and purchase from companies that preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the world.

    We will look deeply at the collective psychological origins of the ecological crisis and the related crises of war and social injustice. By examining how ethnocentrism has manifested in our science, philosophy, and economics, we will work to resist the drive for globalization of Western culture, and oppose trade policies that lead to the devastation of both human culture and Nature. We will keep those who suffer from war, famine and poverty in our consciousness and contemplate our interconnection to help us decide how we, our community, and our country can help.

    Summer is fading and the shadows of the day lengthen in the slanting light. How tenderly the days pass. Sometimes a despair rises in me that time is slipping away too fast. The breeze stirs; a shimmer of gold is loosed from the trees, and then I am reminded that deep within every falling leaf is the promise of new life. Incredible beauty can spring from the compost of our misconceptions. Deep within me a seed of insight glows: the human era of separation is coming to an end and the greatest of re-awakenings is already underway— how fortunate we are to be alive at this moment.

    from:    http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/engaged-ecology-seven-practices-to-restore-our-harmony-with-nature/

    Mindfulness Practice

    Towards Conscious Awakening

    Stages of Conscious Awakening

    by Zen Gardner Jul 12, 2015


    It is imperative that we awaken from mundane awareness into full spiritual remembrance of who we are. The problem is that even when physically awake, we can still be mentally asleep, unaware of ourselves and entirely absorbed in whatever mechanical impulse or external stimulus captures our attention. This state of confluence, or mental absorption, keeps us in an unproductive dream state.

    The common understanding of what it means to be “awake” disguises the truth, which is that despite walking around with eyes open, people tend to nonetheless be hypnotized, dimly conscious, sleepwalking, daydreaming, or in a state of trance. What all these states have in common is that the conscious core of the individual is absent or passive, blowing like a leaf in the winds of environmental stimuli.

    In dreams we might make the strangest “logical” associations that amount to no logic at all, have little say in what happens to us, do things impulsively, and fail to question our reality or observe ourselves. Compare this to how people tend to behave in everyday life, the anecdotes and gossip they speak, how they might communicate via recitations of lines from movies or TV shows, speak in trite memetic phrases without conscious thought or originality, engage in ludicrous programmed behavior, engross themselves in petty dramas, and switch between goofy or borrowed personalities. For them, dreams do not end in the morning.

    The world is an insane asylum but society is too asleep to notice the insanity. Just as you may not question insane dreams while having them, some people never question their insane lives. The implications of mass somnambulism is obvious: with billions of people asleep, those in power who are awake have the advantage. Sleeping people are easily controlled. Their conscious core exists within a mental prison, harvested for time, labor, and energy. They possess little or no freewill because they have abandoned the awareness necessary to harness it.

    The mind and body can be asleep or awake independently of each other. With mind and body awake, one is truly awake. With mind and body asleep, one is dreaming. With mind awake and body asleep, one is lucid-dreaming. With mind asleep and body awake, one is sleepwalking. Gradations exist between these four states, ranging from hypnotism and trance to daydreaming and dim consciousness.

    Stage 1: Breaking Negative Confluence

    The first step to awakening requires breaking out of this negative confluence by gaining a degree of lucidity, a measure of self-awareness. At any moment you can turn your attention inward and observe yourself, placing your attention firmly in the present moment. You can notice your thoughts, analyze your feelings, pay attention to the sensations in your body, feel your breath, engage in self-examination, and survey your situation and surroundings from a higher perspective.

    In doing so, you quickly become aware that all these perceptions ultimately originate from outside of you even if they are playing out inside your own mind. That is because at the very core of your mind is a center of perception that defines the true you, while the peripheral territory of your mind is populated by thoughts that may or may not be your own. This inner core is the silent observer, the consciousness watching through your eyes and thinking through your mind. It is that which experiences, chooses, realizes, and lives. The rest is just machinery.

    Becoming lucid depends on being cognizant of your own awareness. Some call this self-remembering since confluence is the state of self-forgetting. Lucidity is as simple as turning within and remembering yourself in the present moment. Remembering yourself stops confluence, and stopping confluence is the first step to snapping out of what suffocates your spiritual identity. It is one thing to know that you are, but quite another to know who you are. In time, the first leads to the second.

    Being consciously present in the moment is easy to implement but difficult to maintain. Books have been written on just this task alone. The problem is both physical and metaphysical. Initially, heightening one’s state of awareness requires both vital energy and an adequate supply of neurotransmitters. These deplete after a short period of exertion and one slips back into lowered consciousness. But like a muscle, mental focus grows with training because the physical and subtle bodies adapt to a greater demand for energy.

    Maintaining lucidity becomes easier with practice, as with practice one gradually increases the length and depth of focus. By practicing lucidity in a controlled setting, the same state of heightened awareness can more easily be reached and maintained under more natural circumstances. Hence some forms of meditation assist the training of self-awareness.

    One common method of exercising lucidity is mindfulness meditation, where you pay attention to your thoughts and sensations by being a calm and lucid third party observer. Unlike transcendental meditation where chanting a mantra for hours leads to self-hypnosis and a lowering of consciousness, mindfulness meditation raises consciousness.

    Another practice called Vipassana requires that you relax and then pay attention to every sensation in your body, starting with the top of your head and working your way down to your toes, then back to the top. The primary benefit of this type of meditation is that we become conscious of signals that are otherwise ignored and forgotten. This is useful because in this modern age not only do we normally forget ourselves, but we tend to forget our own bodies. For instance, watching television or using the internet places our attention into virtual bodies that displace our own. This causes a schism between mind and body in addition to the already prevalent disconnection between self and mind. Dissociation of this type is antagonistic to higher awareness. Observing physical sensations goes toward mending the schism, which in turn assists conscious integration between self and mind.

    Interestingly, the practice of such lucidity literally changes brain structure over time and increases the activity of gamma brainwaves, which are 40Hz oscillations of the entire brain resonating via quantum coherence.

    Additionally, Vipassana and related exercises such as Robert Bruce’s New Energy Ways or the Microcosmic Orbit Meditation of Taoist yoga all have the effect of stimulating nonphysical structures and circuits within the etheric body, which if nothing else can help remove blockages and stagnant energies. If properly executed with sufficient regularity of practice, however, these can also awaken certain extrasensory abilities.

    Dealing with Negative Emotions

    Becoming mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations is also useful in transmuting internal negative emotional energy. By observing negative emotions as they arise and objectively noticing the physiological sensations they evoke, one keeps from entering into a runaway feedback loop between thoughts and emotions that would otherwise explode into over-reactivity and generate a skewed sense of perception and judgment. In other words, this practice can break your confluence with external provocations.

    If the negative emotion is triggered by some button-pushing event, lucid awareness of the emotion itself (rather than where it points, or the person/event that triggered it) is a way of defusing the negative energy without suppressing it. On the other hand, if negativity is more a constant pressure without any specific trigger, then self-awareness helps you stand upright against the pull of this emotional gravity.

    In the midst of such storms, through lucidity you will find that you are the eye of that hurricane, an impersonal observer who stands above and beyond. That is the pivot point that disarms and transmutes the energy.

    So, lucidity is the key to keeping one’s composure. Only when you have gotten the upper hand over an escalating emotion are you in a position to make an informed choice as to whether to go with it or reign it in; without awareness, that choice is never made and one simply reacts like an animal.

    Suppressing emotions by allowing them to fester as you turn to look the other way will cause them to flare up in unexpected ways at unexpected times. This is not healthy; emotions must be dealt with, not ignored. By becoming aware of the raw emotional energy, you can instead harness it — when appropriate. This includes anger in cases where the imminent action fueled by that anger is both wise and necessary, meaning if one is too weak to take care of needed business otherwise.

    If a negative emotion and its associated action is not appropriate, then awareness of that energy and remembrance of yourself as the transcendent observer will defuse the energy and transmute it into a higher grade of spiritual fuel for your soul.

    Thus whether you harness the energy toward needed action or toward transmutation into a higher form of positive energy, either way you are dealing with it instead of suppressing it.

    Stage 2: Positive Confluence

    In summary, observing yourself expands the bandwidth of your awareness, breaks negative forms of confluence, and has enhancing effects on your brain and soul. Returning to your center allows you to choose in the moment what to think, feel, or do next. Without self-awareness there is no choice, just a mechanical reaction to a given stimulus. By default we behave like machines, but at any moment we can regain lucidity and disengage the autopilot.

    It would therefore seem that self-remembering, mindfulness, or lucidity is all we need to develop spiritually, but unfortunately that is not sufficient. Some esoteric schools of thought stop there and become preoccupied with deprogramming and self-remembering in an effort to pick the weeds of the mind and soul. However, without planting the seeds, adding water and sunshine, what remains is an immaculate but ultimately barren field of dirt.

    Notice that by itself, lucidity is merely a state of mindfulness that squelches mechanical reactivity and lets you think on what to do next, but it doesn’t necessarily offer a transcendental or transjective influence to direct you toward the ideal outcome. The sword is liberated from the stone but no map or compass is provided for the quest.

    And thus there is need for a second stage in conscious development that goes beyond mere self-remembering. While the first stage aims to interrupt negative confluence, the second stage involves initiating positive confluence with the higher aspects of your being. Speaking from your heart, following your intuition, tapping into your subconscious, virtually “channeling” your Higher Self — these are all examples of positive confluence.

    Here, you willingly seek out these higher impulses and let them flow as your self-awareness takes a back seat. Reflect upon times when words flowed from you that must have come from something higher. What you said was wiser and more helpful than anything you could have come up with solely on your own. And while they were flowing, you were unaware of yourself as though in a trance (not unconscious, just not self-aware). This is a state of being in the flow, in the so-called “zone”.

    This type of confluence is productive and happens from time to time even without being trained in self-observation. However, self-observation helps you make these connections more consistently and intentionally by reducing interruptions by periods of negative confluence, mainly through your noticing them and nipping them in the bud.

    The main function of the second stage is to strengthen your connection with the higher centers, the higher chakras, the uplinks to your Higher Self or Higher Mind. By grooving a conduit to these higher aspects through regular use, their influences become more permanent. This is important because at this second stage, becoming lucid while being in the flow will momentarily interrupt the flow. For instance, speaking from your heart but then suddenly becoming aware of yourself temporarily breaks the connection.

    Lucidity hampers all types of confluence, even the positive ones. That is, unless the flow is sufficiently strong such that lucidity does not interrupt it. To illustrate, consider how when we first drift off to sleep at night, if we catch ourselves falling asleep we immediately wake up again. In this case, the initial sleep state is not strong enough to withstand the conscious mind suddenly withdrawing from confluence. However, once one has entered deeper sleep and begun dreaming, it is possible to become lucid and continue dreaming. Those who are unskilled in lucid dreaming have difficulty either maintaining their lucidity, whereupon they continue dreaming unaware, or maintaining their dream state, whereupon they break out of sleep upon realizing they are dreaming. But with practice the state of lucid dreaming can be prolonged.

    Stage 3: Positive Lucidity

    What does this say about positive confluence? It says that positive confluence is merely a means toward making the connection with one’s higher aspects sufficiently permanent (through repeated exposure and practice, which in turn changes the structure of the brain and soul to create a more hardwired connection) so that one can eventually have self-awareness and not break the connection.

    This is the third stage: being simultaneously connected and lucid.

    There are two categories of meditation, one lowers consciousness and the other raises it. Both seek to unify the conscious mind with the subconscious and thereby achieve integration of the whole being. But while the first category is regressive, the second is progressive.

    Regressive meditation seeks to dissolve the ego into the subconscious so that, in theory, one becomes an unconscious extension of higher sources. If one thereby enters into positive confluence, then that is good.

    But with the subconscious merely being a doorway to anything and everything outside the lower self, without deliberately setting a genuine positive destination that doorway could just as easily lead toward becoming a puppet of subconscious complexes, power tripping gurus, or negative entities.

    This means that regressive practices carry the risk of losing ego in favor of potentially malevolent influences. Mindless chanting of a mantra, focusing on an external guru, practicing channeling with no filters in place, and slipping into altered states of consciousness for the sake of novelty are examples of things that carry this risk. If you are not engaged in positive confluence with your spiritual core by being and feeling it, then there’s no telling what you’re entering into confluence with.

    Some forms of meditation marketed to the West should be called mindlessness meditations because that is precisely what they accomplish: a lowering of awareness into a murky state of unconsciousness that only ends up creating habitual mindless trance states and susceptility to manipulation by delusional or malevolent forces; it works for stress relief the same way psychiatric drugs take the edge off, but it is inappropriate for spiritual development since at best it merely inebriates and tranquilizes and at worst leads to becoming a mindless puppet.

    Technically speaking, positive confluence is regressive because it puts us back into the naive childlike state of divine innocence as before the Fall. Self-awareness is lowered into mere awareness as one becomes an expression of a higher will. But as long as this remains a means rather than ends, that is okay. This state has its uses and is better than being in negative confluence, which is the sleepwalking state society seems to be in or the mindless puppet state that certain meditators and channelers enter into.

    Despite being regressive, positive confluence is also better than being in a sterile state of lucidity not connected to anything positive, as happens with those who practice self-remembering for years without ever training their capacity for love, empathy, intuition, and other faculties of spirit. They become very lucid but also very cold and hardened, signifying the onset of ossification or Ahrimanization of the soul.

    So as a means, positive confluence (Stage 2) is more useful as a stepping stone toward emerging into active divine consciousness (Stage 3). The goal is operating with self-awareness intact so that rather than being an unconscious extension of a higher source, one evolves into that higher source.

    In this third stage, one practices self-awareness without interrupting the flow of impressions flowing from the higher centers. This amounts to a passive observation and gentle allowance of the influence your Higher Self exerts over your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

    Why is lucidity important again after it was set aside in the second stage? Because staying lucid while letting positive influences work from within is simply an act of supervising the process so that you can step in as necessary to correct deviations or initiate a new line of inquiry and action.

    The problem with Stage 2 is that positive confluence easily passes into negative because one is not always self-aware enough to catch the switchover. Think of a dreamer who is heartful and wise in one dream, then quickly sinks into stress and anger when the dream changes to something negative. There is no consistency. That is why I said positive confluence is fragile, just as Adam and Eve were in a fragile state that was good while it lasted, but ignorance is bliss and that ignorance allowed them to be easily swayed by interceding negative forces.

    It is difficult enough to gain lucidity without interrupting the flow, which is why lucidity must at first be passive in the beginning of the third stage, meaning “watch yourself but do not interfere with the expression of your heart.” This, as distinguished from the “express your heart and higher wisdom by forgetting yourself” aspect of the second stage. The latter is a means toward achieving the first, however, so anyone stuck in Stage 1 to the point of having become more lucid but simultaneously colder inside, should practice entering into positive confluence. That means loosening up and absorbing yourself into positive, productive, creative, empathic, revelatory, and generally spiritual activities.

    Once the lower self is free of negative confluence and the Higher Self has a clear and permanent communication link (achieved through brain and soul structure enhancements brought about through the aforementioned exercises) and both higher and lower are present at the same time, a mutual flow of communication is possible. The lower self becomes an adept assimilating the wisdom and essence of the Higher Self, thereby rising to its level. In this way, the lower finally merges with the higher and achieves total integration of being.

    This is different from the higher sinking into the lower during positive confluence; it is different from annihiliation of ego and the return to a primitive pure state. Rather, it is a forward progression, an entelechy of human consciousness.

    Nonlinear Evolution

    In practice, these stages of conscious awakening are not discretely sequential like grades in school. Rather, we occupy one of the stages as a primary center of gravity yet can spontaneously spike into the higher levels or drop into the lower.

    The higher stages are trickier to access and maintain, but that does not mean we are barred from accessing them, just that without practice we access them less frequently. The glimpses we catch of the higher stages should motivate us to acquire them permanently as our new center of gravity. This is much like regular dreamers being motivated by spontaneous lucid dreams to practice and have them more frequently until it becomes the normal mode of dreaming. Higher awareness happens in flashes, like a fluorescent bulb flickering before fully igniting.




    from:    http://www.zengardner.com/stages-conscious-awakening/

    Are You COmpassionate?

    8 Ways To Tell if You’re A Truly Compassionate Person


    “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –Dalai Lama

    His remarks capture a simple truth: Despite popular belief that happiness depends solely on you, the way to achieve it may not lie just within yourself, but in your relationships and interactions with others.

    “When we have feelings of caring or love for other people, we feel better,” clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., tells The Huffington Post. “We all think we want to be loved, but what actually feels good to us is feeling loving – and part of what makes us feel more love for other people is doing kind, compassionate things for them.”

    The good news is, if you don’t normally identify as someone who is overly empathetic, studies show it’s a habit that can be cultivated. So how can you tell if you are or not?

    Below, find eight signs you’re a truly compassionate person.

    You find commonalities with other people.

    Compassionate people know what it’s like to be down on their luck, and they keep those experiences in mind to develop a more empathetic nature, whether through volunteering or just simply networking. “Compassionate people are very outward-focused because they think and feel about other people,” Firestone says. “They have that ability to feel others’ feelings, so they’re very socially connected.”

    And turns out, there’s science behind why we feel compassion toward people who have been in our same boat. In one small study, researchers found that humans’ sense of compassion actually increases when there’s a common connection with the other person. “What these results suggest is that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them: if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves — even a relatively trivial one — the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly,” study researcher and Northeastern University psychology professor David DeSteno, Ph.D., wrote in The New York Times.

    You don’t put emphasis on money.

    If money doesn’t buy happiness, then according to studies from the University of California, Berkeley, it doesn’t buy compassion, either. In one study, researchers found that as someone grew in social class, his or her compassion for others declined. The findings support previous research that showed that a higher social class also negatively influences a person’s ability to pay attention in interactions wither other people, Scientific American reported.

    You act on your empathy.

    Firestone says a major component of compassion is giving back, even in the smallest ways. “When we take actions that are caring and loving, we feel more love in return,” she explains. This is why compassionate people act on their kindness, whether it’s through volunteering or just being a shoulder to lean on — and overall they’re much happier for it. “If you’re going after happiness, you don’t get as happy as you would if you’re going after generosity,” she says. “A hedonistic way of pursuing happiness really doesn’t work for most people.”

    You’re kind to yourself.
    self love

    “Self-compassion is actually really, really key to becoming a more compassionate person overall,” Firestone explains. “It’s hard to feel for other people something we don’t feel for ourselves.”

    Practicing self-love is a little different than self-esteem, is also crucial to beating bad habits in other aspects of our lives. “We often think the way to change bad behaviors is to beat ourselves up, But self-compassion is actually the first step in changing any behavior you want to change.” And there’s science to back it up: According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, those who practice self-compassion are more motivated to improve themselves and go for their goals.

    You teach others.

    Compassionate people don’t want to just keep their gifts to themselves, they want to impart their knowledge onto other people. As motivational speaker and author Jen Groover notes, it’s this desire that lies in the root of all empathetic habits. “True compassion exists when you give your strength, guidance and wisdom to empower another so that you can see who you really are and live in a greater capacity and expect nothing in return,” she wrote. “True grace exists when the ‘teachers’ realize that the gift was really theirs — to be able to teach another.”

    You’re mindful.


    When you’re exercising compassion, you’re putting yourself in the moment. Compassionate people aren’t listening and checking their smartphones at the same time — they’re present, offering their empathetic response to the story right in front of them.

    This awareness is crucial to compassion because it allows you to really focus on others rather than your own reflections. “Mindfulness allows us to develop a different relationship to our feelings,” Firestone explains. “Feelings or thoughts may come up, but with mindfulness we can sort of see them as clouds floating by. Not getting caught up in our thoughts is really helpful.”

    You have high emotional intelligence.

    Individuals who are tapped into their own compassion also seem to be tapped into their own emotions. “It’s partly … being able to see what’s going on in your mind and other people’s minds,” Firestone explains. “I think when we can do that we have more compassion toward other people.”

    When you’re emotionally intelligent, you also have a greater sense of morality and you genuinely try to help others – which are all crucial components of empathy. Compassionate people “understand that other people have a sovereign mind that sees the world differently than you do — and one isn’t right and one isn’t wrong,” Firestone says.

    You express gratitude.


    “Doing things that light us up and make us feel good — people think of that as being selfish, but often that leads us to better behavior toward other people,” Firestone says. One way to do that is to count the positives.

    Whether or not you’ve committed a lot of compassionate acts in your life, chances are you’ve been on the receiving end at least once or twice. Empathetic individuals not only acknowledge those acts of kindness done unto them, they actively express gratitude for them. “Just thinking about our gratitude for other people makes us feel happy,” Firestone says. “And it’s slowing down and expressing those types of things that makes us more caring and loving.”

    Credits: livebuddhism, where this was originally featured.


    from:    http://themindunleashed.org/2014/07/8-ways-tell-youre-truly-compassionate-person.html

    Taking Hold of the Current Energetic Shifts

    Most likely you are feeling a bit restless and uncertain as April begins – not knowing how the month’s intense energies will play out in your life.

    To be sure, as I’ve been writing about on Facebook recently, April’s energies can leave even the most grounded person unglued and in a state of ongoing disquiet. Two eclipses in one month – any time – will catalyze a roller coaster ride. In April, though, with the additional rare grand cross planetary configuration building for decades, it may feel more like an upside-down wild mouse ride.

    Here are some suggestions for moving through this cycle with more ease and fewer missteps you will need to address later. If you did not see my last article with specifics on April’s wild ride – including dates of eclipses and the grand cross – please see the Archive on the home page of www.Selacia.com.

    Use Uncertainty as a Gift

    No one likes to be uncertain, unable to figure out current and future happenstance. It’s in our conditioning to want to know what’s up and where we are headed. When we feel like the road in front of us has a huge fog bank spreading out in all directions and obscuring our view, we can panic. There are gifts, though, described here.

    Gift One. Consider the blessings of the fog bank. Yes, there are some. One gift is that the voice of uncertainty within you can catalyze your next big leap forward!

    How? If you pay attention with consciousness to this voice, it can catalyze a deeper questioning within. This can give you an expanded understanding of what is not working in your life, and help you to see new remedies not visible before.

    Gift Two. Here’s another gift. Uncertainty you feel in April can be a signal from your intuition to steer clear of something not in your highest good. Perhaps you have had intuitive hunches for months about a decision or potential action, but you misread them as signs the timing just wasn’t yet right. April could be the month, however when you finally have clarity with a long-term view – indicating that your planned action would not get you where you want to go.

    Keep in mind, of course, that uncertainty is sometimes your ego. That’s different and you want to learn to discern the difference. Feeling uncertain with ego running your mind and emotional responses can lead to a circling of unproductive thoughts that keep you stuck and afraid to take action.

    If you discover this happening, there is a solution. You can break the circle by overriding this self-created loop and taking action on what is in front of you – one thing at a time. This is how you take back your power.

    Here’s an interesting dynamic to note. It is human nature to feel uncertain when things suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly change. The energies of April are catalyzing these kinds of changes.

    Some of what will be occurring may throw you off guard, even if it has no direct impact on you. It’s simply unsettling to know that so much is happening so fast around the world or to people you know – things that you did not expect to happen.

    Likewise, some of what will be occurring will in fact be welcome news, evoking feelings like you might have when the sun comes out after a long gloomy winter. An outer world example could be hearing that a loved one you haven’t seen for years is coming across the country on an unplanned business trip. You love the idea of spending time with him or her, but the unexpected visit means that your already full schedule needs to be adjusted.

    Gift Three. Here’s a third gift. April’s wild ride of energies can feel like your undoing or you can approach it with an open mind and a willingness to shift old methods. Consider, then, how you can be more allowing and in the moment with what shows up. Become mindful of when you are in your head and intellectualizing solutions – and invite spirit to help you let go.

    Life is an evolving process that you can only truly appreciate from your heart space. Your rational mind cannot make sense of the quantum eternal realms, but it will try to figure things out and control every detail. Enjoy more peace with a heart focus. Your gift is shifting to a new fueling system that is heart centered.

    There are many things you simply cannot know in advance. Some things, however, are constant and eternal – you can count on them to exist when you get to future points in time. Among these: your true nature is divine, you are light, and you exist as a multidimensional being. You can forget these things, but at each juncture, they are intrinsic to who you really are. No one can take them away and you cannot lose them. Trust this.

    selacia_min_400About the Author

    Selacia, internationally acclaimed author of Earth’s Pivotal Years, is an intuitive healer and guide to others on the path of spiritual awakening.

    from:    http://consciouslifenews.com/aprils-uncertainty-next-big-leap/1172328/

    Traits of The Very Intuitive

    10 Things Highly Intuitive People Do Differently

    Posted: Updated:

    Intuition is challenging to define, despite the huge role it plays in our everyday lives. Steve Jobs called it, for instance, “more powerful than intellect.” But however we put it into words, we all, well, intuitively know just what it is.

    Pretty much everyone has experienced a gut feeling — that unconscious reasoning that propels us to do something without telling us why or how. But the nature of intuition has long eluded us, and has inspired centuries’ worth of research and inquiry in the fields of philosophy and psychology.

    “I define intuition as the subtle knowing without ever having any idea why you know it,” Sophy Burnham, bestselling author of The Art of Intuition, tells The Huffington Post. “It’s different from thinking, it’s different from logic or analysis … It’s a knowing without knowing.”

    Our intuition is always there, whether we’re aware of it or not. As HuffPost President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington puts it in her upcoming book Thrive:

    Even when we’re not at a fork in the road, wondering what to do and trying to hear that inner voice, our intuition is always there, always reading the situation, always trying to steer us the right way. But can we hear it? Are we paying attention? Are we living a life that keeps the pathway to our intuition unblocked? Feeding and nurturing our intuition, and living a life in which we can make use of its wisdom, is one key way to thrive, at work and in life.

    Cognitive science is beginning to demystify the strong but sometimes inexplicable presence of unconscious reasoning in our lives and thought. Often dismissed as unscientific because of its connections to the psychic and paranormal, intuition isn’t just a bunch of hoo-ha about our “Spidey senses” — the U.S. military is even investigating the power of intuition, which has helped troops to make quick judgments during combat that ended up saving lives.

    “There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions,” Ivy Estabrooke, a program manager at the Office of Naval Research, told the New York Times in 2012.

    Here are 10 things that people in touch with their intuition do differently.

    They listen to that inner voice.


    “It’s very easy to dismiss intuition,” says Burnham. “But it’s a great gift that needs to be noticed.”

    The No. 1 thing that distinguishes intuitive people is that they listen to, rather than ignore, the guidance of their intuitions and gut feelings.

    “Everybody is connected to their intuition, but some people don’t pay attention to it as intuition,” Burnham say. “I have yet to meet a successful businessman that didn’t say, ‘I don’t know why I did that, it was just a hunch.'”

    In order to make our best decisions, we need a balance of intuition — which serves to bridge the gap between instinct and reasoning — and rational thinking, according to Francis Cholle, author of The Intuitive Compass. But the cultural bias against following one’s instinct or intuition often leads to disregarding our hunches — to our own detriment.

    “We don’t have to reject scientific logic in order to benefit from instinct,” says Cholle. “We can honor and call upon all of these tools, and we can seek balance. And by seeking this balance we will finally bring all of the resources of our brain into action.”

    They take time for solitude.


    If you want to get in touch with your intuition, a little time alone may be the most effective way. Just as solitude can help give rise to creative thinking, it can also help us connect to our deepest inner wisdom.

    Intuitive people are often introverted, according to Burnham. But whether you’re an introvert or not, taking time for solitude can help you engage in deeper thought and reconnect with yourself.

    “You have to be able to have a little bit of solitude; a little bit of silence,” she says. “In the middle of craziness … you can’t recognize [intuition] above all of the noise of everyday life.”

    They create.


    “Creativity does its best work when it functions intuitively,” writes researcher and author Carla Woolf.

    In fact, creative people are highly intuitive, explains Burnham, and just as you can increase your creativity through practice, you can boost your intuition. In fact, practicing one may build up the other.

    They practice mindfulness.

    Meditation and other mindfulness practices can be an excellent way to tap into your intuition. As the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute explains, “Mindfulness can help you filter out mental chatter, weigh your options objectively, tune into your intuition and ultimately make a decision that you can stand behind completely.”

    Mindfulness can also connect you to your intuition by boosting self-knowledge. A 2013 study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science showed that mindfulness — defined as “paying attention to one’s current experience in a non-judgmental way” — may help us to better understand our own personalities. And as Arianna Huffington notes in Thrive, increased intuition, compassion, creativity and peace are all wonderful side effects of meditating.

    They observe everything.

    look out window

    “The first thing to do is notice — keep a little journal, and notice when odd things happen,” Burnham says. You’ll gain a keen sense for how often coincidences, surprising connections and on-the-dot intuitions occur in your daily life — in other words, you’ll start to tap into your intuition.

    They listen to their bodies.

    Intuitive people learn to tune into their bodies and heed their “gut feelings.”

    If you’ve ever started feeling sick to your stomach when you knew something was wrong but couldn’t put your finger on what, you understand that intuitions can cause a physical sensation in the body. Our gut feelings are called gut feelings for a reason — research suggests that emotion and intuition are very much rooted in the “second brain” in the gut.

    They connect deeply with others.


    Mind reading may seem like the stuff of fantasy and pseudo-science, but it’s actually something we do everyday. It’s called empathic accuracy, a term in psychology that refers to the “seemingly magical ability to map someone’s mental terrain from their words, emotions and body language,” according to Psychology Today.

    “When you see a spider crawling up someone’s leg, you feel a creepy sensation,” Marcia Reynolds writes in Psychology Today. “Similarly, when you observe someone reach out to a friend and they are pushed away, your brain registers the sensation of rejection. When you watch your team win or a couple embrace on television, you feel their emotions as if you are there. Social emotions like guilt, shame, pride, embarrassment, disgust and lust can all be experienced by watching others.”

    Tuning into your own emotions, and spending time both observing and listening to others face-to-face can help boost your powers of empathy, says Reynolds.

    They pay attention to their dreams.


    Burnham recommends paying attention to your dreams as a way to get in touch with your mind’s unconscious thinking processes. Both dreams and intuition spring from the unconscious, so you can begin to tap into this part of your mind by paying attention to your dreams.

    “At night, when you’re dreaming, you’re receiving information from the unconscious or intuitive part of your brain,” says Burnham. “If you’re attuned to your dreams, you can get a lot of information about how to live your life.”

    They enjoy plenty of down time.

    dream studies

    Few things stifle intuition as easily as constant busyness, multitasking, connectivity to digital devices and stress and burnout. According to Huffington, we always have an intuitive sense about the people in our lives — on a deep level, we know the good ones from the “flatterers and dissemblers” — but we’re not always awake enough to our intuition to acknowledge the difference to ourselves. The problem is that we’re simply too busy.

    “We always get warnings from our heart and our intuition when they appear,” she writes in Thrive. “But we are often too busy to notice.”

    They mindfully let go of negative emotions.

    Strong emotions — particularly negative ones — can cloud our intuition. Many of us know that we feel out of sorts or “not ourselves” when we’re upset, and it may be because we’re disconnected from our intuition.

    “When you are very depressed, you may find your intuition fails,” says Burnham. “When you’re angry or in a heightened emotional state … your intuition [can] fail you completely.”

    The evidence isn’t just anecdotal: A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that being in a positive mood boosted the ability to make intuitive judgments in a word game.

    That’s not to say that intuitive people never get upset — but your intuition will fare better if you’re able to mindfully accept and let go of negative emotions for the most part, rather than suppressing or dwelling on them.

    from:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/19/the-habits-of-highly-intu_n_4958778.html

    On Mindful Living

    Why 2014 Will Be The Year Of Mindful Living

    The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 01/02/2014 9:06 am EST  |  Updated: 01/02/2014 2:38 pm EST

    Meditation Class

    Mindfulness, it seems, is having a moment. 2013 saw a significant spike of interest in holistic health and mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation (not to mention a number of celebrities and CEOs hopping on the mindfulness bandwagon) and it’s a trend that will likely continue to gain momentum in 2014.

    “What the culture is craving is a sense of ease and reflection, of not needing to be stimulated or entertained or going after something constantly,” Soren Gordhamer, founder of the Wisdom 2.0 conference, told the New York Times. “Nobody’s kicking out technology, but we have to regain our connection to others and to nature or else everybody loses.”

    Here are five reasons that mindfulness will change the world this upcoming year.

    Trendspotters are going all in for 2014.


    According to JWT Worldwide, one of the world’s largest marketing communications brands, 2014 will be characterized by a movement toward mindful living. A number of the items on JWT’s “100 Things to Watch for in 2014” list reflect a growing interest in mindfulness — that is, the cultivation of a focused awareness on the present moment — and mindful living was named one of 10 trends that will shape the world in 2014 and beyond.

    “Mindfulness is part of a much larger trend we’ve been observing called mindful living,” Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT, told the Huffington Post. “It’s kind of a counter-trend to the past decade of overly stimulated, ADD-afflicted, tech-saturated culture that we’ve been living in. What was once the domain of the spiritual set has filtered into the mainstream as more people are drawn to this idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.”

    Related trends forecasted on JWT’s 2014 list include “survival of the focused,” “rage against the machine” — a movement characterized by a fear and resentment of technology, and desire for more human experiences — and mindfulness in the classroom.

    But just because mindfulness has been labeled a trend, don’t expect the movement to fizzle out any time soon.

    “[Mindful living] has staying power, because our world is only going to become more saturated with technology, and therefore people have to find ways to counteract that,” says Mack. “We’re reassessing our relationship with technology. Over the last decade, we’ve allowed technology to rule us. Now we’re trying to be more mindful in the way we use technology and find more balance.”

    People are Googling it like crazy.


    It’s a movement that began gaining steam in 2013, making headlines around the web — from Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he was taking up Transcendental Meditation to the University of Wisconsin’s groundbreaking finding that mindfulness meditation actually alters gene expression in the body — and searches for the term soared on Google (see chart below).

    Major corporations are getting on board.

    meditation office

    Silicon Valley may be at least partially responsible for turning mindfulness from a niche New Age practice to a pop culture buzzword. In November, a New York Times Magazine cover story profiled the “hunger to get centered” and influx of mindfulness practices in the tech world and beyond.

    “It seems counterintuitive, since technology is perhaps the biggest driver of mindlessness and distraction… but the drive to mindfulness is becoming more prominent in places were tech immersion is more prominent,” says Mack. “A lot of Silicon Valley companies, for instance, are banning technology during meetings in an effort to reign in focus.”

    Google even offers its employees a program called Search Inside Yourself (SIY), a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training program. Chade-Meng Tan, the program’s founder and author of “Search Inside Yourself,” told the Huffington Post that mindfulness can help build compassion, which can be beneficial to not only individuals and community, but also to corporate bottom lines.

    “The one thing [that all companies should be doing] is promoting the awareness that compassion can and will be good for success and profits,” said Tan.

    Leaders are identifying themselves with it.

    oprah winfrey

    A number of high-powered executives — from LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner to the late Steve Jobs to Oprah — have touted meditation as their secret to success. Even several years ago, you’d never expect to hear a billionaire hedge fund founder admit to meditating daily, but it’s becoming a lot more common.

    “Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had,” Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio claimed, while Oprah has said that meditation helps her to create her best work and best life.

    Science has proven it’s worth the hype.

    mindfulness study

    Mounting research on the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness has contributed to and helped to legitimize this growing interest in meditative practice. Recent studies have linked mindfulness with emotional stability and improved sleep, increased focus and memory, enhanced creativity, and lower stress levels, among a host of other positive health outcomes.


    from:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/02/will-2014-be-the-year-of-_0_n_4523975.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS+for+the+Soul

    Worry Busting Techniques

    9 Scientifically-Backed Ways To Stop Worrying

    The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 10/01/2013 8:47 am EDT  |  Updated: 10/01/2013

    stop worrying

    Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

    Indeed, numerous studies have shown that worry not only puts a strain on our mental health, but on our physical health, too. While worry in and of itself is not bad — it spurs us into action, after all — too much of it can lead to anxiety, which can have a lasting impact on health and happiness. For instance, research has shown that anxiety can take a toll on sleep, tax your immune system, raise your risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even affect your risk of dying from disease.

    The problem with worrying is that it becomes a cycle of self-perpetuating negative thoughts. In a new review, University of Surrey researchers described worry as “a chain of thoughts and images that are affectively negative and relatively uncontrollable.”

    So what’s the best way to stop the cycle? We rounded up some research-backed ways:

    Set aside a designated “worry time.”
    Instead of worrying all day, every day, designate a 30-minute period of time where you can think about your problems. Penn State researchers found in a 2011 study that a four-step stimulus control program could help seriously stressed people take control of their anxieties, LiveScience reported. Step one: Identify the object of worry. Step two: Come up with a time and place to think about said worry. Step three: If you catch yourself worrying at a time other than your designated worry time, you must make a point to think of something else. Step four: Use your “worry time” productively by thinking of solutions to the worries.

    Kick your online addiction.
    unplug technology
    All that time you spend perusing your Facebook newsfeed probably isn’t doing your mental health any favors. A recent study from Anxiety UK showed that nearly half of people feel “worried or uncomfortable” being away from email or Facebook. “These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it,” Anxiety UK CEO Nicky Lidbetter said in a statement. Need some ideas for things to do away from your computer or cell phone? We’ve got you covered.

    Be mindful.
    The most effective strategies to stop worrying and rumination may be ones based in mindfulness, which involves nonjudgmental awareness of present thoughts and emotions, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, according to the University of Surrey review of 19 studies. Particularly, the review noted that “treatments in which participants are encouraged to change their thinking style, or to disengage from emotional response to rumination or worry,” as well as “treatments which enable participants to adopt more concrete and specific thinking or which cognitively restructure thinking in a more positive and constructive way” seem especially effective.

    Accept the worry — and then move on.
    Worrying about worrying is a dangerous cycle to fall into. A 2005 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy showed that people who naturally try to suppress their unwanted thoughts end up being more distressed by said thoughts. Meanwhile, “those who are naturally more accepting of their intrusive thoughts are less obsessional, have lower levels of depression, and are less anxious,” the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers wrote. Therefore, people who get caught up in worry when they try to force themselves to stop worrying may want to try a different strategy — acceptance.

    Write your worries down.
    Letting all your emotions out on paper before a big exam could help decrease test-taking worry, according to a 2011 study in Science. “It might be counterintuitive, but it’s almost as if you empty the fears out of your mind,” study researcher Sian Beilock, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Chicago, told U.S. News. “You reassess that situation so that you’re not as likely to worry about those situations because you’ve slain that beast.” While exams are no longer a threat to many of us, Beilock noted that the approach could work for people facing anxieties for other things.

    Cut yourself some slack.
    Dr. Susan M. Love, a professor at the David Geffen School of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The New York Times that the perceived need to follow all the rules when it comes to health can be a source of stress and worry in itself. Love, who wrote the book “Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won’t Break Your Health” told The Times that at the end of the day, it’s impossible to have perfect health, and you’re probably a lot healthier than you realize. “Is the goal to live forever?” she said to The Times. “I would contend it’s not. It’s really to live as long as you can with the best quality of life you can. The problem was all of these women I kept meeting who were scared to death if they didn’t eat a cup of blueberries a day they would drop dead.”

    Keep your hands busy.
    Engaging in activities that keep your hands busy and mind distracted could help prevent flashbacks from traumatic experiences, according to research from the Medical Research Council in England. While the study didn’t examine how this strategy impacts everyday worry, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Bob Hirshon pointed out that “keeping your hands and mind busy interferes with storing and encoding visual images.”

    Make time for meditation.
    Taking some time to find some zen can really help anxiety in your brain — even brain scans say so. A study published earlier this year in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience showed that meditation training not only lower anxiety levels in people, but it also had effects on the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex brain regions (the former region controls emotions and thinking, the latter controls worrying).

    Get your heart pumping.
    Exercise may be a predictable way to beat stress, but it’s only predictable because it’s so effective. Research in animals, for instance, shows that exercise can affect brain activity of serotonin (a so-called “happy” brain chemical) as well as reduce the effects of oxidative stress, The New York Times reported. And Well and Good points out studies showing that exercise interventions can result in lower anxiety levels than people who stay tied to the couch. “Several studies have found the effects of aerobic exercise to be initially similar to those of medication,” Jeff Dolgan, an exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, told Well and Good. “However, in the long term, exercise seems to work better.”

    from:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/01/stop-worrying-anxiety-cycle_n_4002914.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-mindfulness-research