Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Introducing the Archangels and Angels into your Life

Everyone has heard angel stories. Angels pull people back from the edges of cliffs and out of the paths of oncoming trains. They warn people to avoid dangerous situations. They guide those facing tough decisions. They comfort, enlighten and heal.

But how can you get the angels to help you?

You are about to learn how to develop a relationship with the angels so that when you call, they answer.

You’ll read how people have used specific techniques to receive angelic guidance and inspiration. And how the angels go to work for them, handling everything from the mundane details of life to miracle cures to highway rescue.

Take Alex, who lost control of his car on an icy road. As he slid toward a precipice, he called to Archangel Michael. His car immediately moved back into the middle of the road—“almost as if it had been pushed by hand.”

Then there was Verlene, who got angelic assistance when she went blank while taking a test.

The first thing to consider is: What are angels and why do they answer our prayers?

Angels are to God what sunbeams are to the sun. God created the angels to serve and minister to us. Answering our prayers is their reason for being.

Although we live in the material world, we have a special link to God through his angels. And we each have a part of God, a divine spark, within us that allows us to ask the angels for help—and to expect results!

As long as what you are asking them to do is positive and will not hurt others or interfere with your life plan, the angels will answer your call.

Not only can you ask them to help you personally but you can also direct them—even command them—to perform larger tasks, like stopping crime and saving children from violence and drugs.

The angels are literally waiting for you to give them assignments.

For there is one rule they seldom break. They don’t intervene in our world unless we ask them to. Keep that in mind as you study this ten-point plan for getting the angels to work for you.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Psalm 91:11
Introducing the Archangels and Angels into your Life
1. Make room in your life for angels
The angels live in the world of Spirit, the heaven-world, and we live in the world of matter. Angels naturally gravitate toward their home.

So if you want the angels to feel comfortable with you, you need to make your world—your thoughts, feelings and surroundings—more like theirs. To paraphrase the Epistle of James: Draw near to the angels and they will draw near to you.

The angels are comfortable with thoughts of peace and love, not with irritation and aggression. You may not be able to put out of your mind the rude driver who cut in front of you on your way home. But you can free yourself from the irritation, starting by communing with the angels for just a few minutes a day.

First, separate yourself from distractions.

Turn off the radio and TV, go into a room by yourself or to your favorite nature spot, imagine an angel in your mind (it helps to have a picture of your favorite angel nearby) and commune with the angels.

Simply talk to the angels about your problems. Talk as if you were talking to your best friend. And then listen. Be silent and wait for the thoughts that the angels will put into your mind.

You may want to use some of the techniques in this lessons to increase the flow of positive energy from the angels.

Before long, your relationship with the angels will turn into an upward spiral: the angels will help you to feel more positive. And feeling positive will bring you closer to the angels.

2. Pray aloud
The angels have answered many an unspoken prayer or intense wish of the heart.

You don’t have to speak in order to get their attention, especially if you’re in a place where it would be awkward, like a business meeting or on the subway. But you will get a more powerful response when you speak to them out loud.

There is power in your voice: the power to create or to destroy. God used this power when he said, “Let there be light.”

By using your gift of speech, you can create changes in your life.

Spoken prayer comes in different forms: songs and hymns, which have traditionally been used to summon the angels; structured prayer, like the Our Father; and unstructured prayer, in which you speak the deepest longings of your soul.

You can combine all of these with ‘decrees’ and ‘fiats,’ the new prayer forms you will learn about during the lessons.

Decrees allow man and God to work together for constructive change. They are spoken prayers that enable you to direct God’s energy into the world. Fiats Are short, powerful affirmations like “Archangel Michael, Help me! Help me! Help me!” which are effective in summoning angelic help.

3. Use the name of God
God is inside of you. And when you use the energy of God that is in you to direct the angels, they can answer you with all of the power of the universe.

Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, he revealed both his name—I AM THAT I AM—and the true nature of man. You are the bush and the fire is your divine spark, God’s fire that he gives to you as his son or daughter. It is the power to create in God’s name—and to command the angels.
Jesus used God’s name when he said “I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Every time you say “I AM…,” you are really saying “God in me is…” and thus drawing to yourself whatever follows.

When you say “I AM illumination,” you are saying that God in you is attracting to you more of the quality of illumination that you already possess.

Many of the decrees and fiats in this lessons use the name of God, I AM THAT I AM. Try it—and experience the increased power of your prayers.

4. Give your prayers and decrees daily
The angels are always there. But we don’t always know how to reach them.

The best way to make sure that the angels answer when you call them is to create a well-traveled pathway from your heart to theirs by communing with them every day.

And the best way to commune with them is to schedule a daily session of prayers and devotions. It doesn’t have to be long—five minutes is a great start.

Michael, a mechanic, says the angels help him all the time and that giving daily decrees helps him to stay on the same wavelength as the angels. “On my end, I’m attuned to them more,” he says.

When he decrees every day, he knows the angels will answer right away each time he asks for help. He says they usually show him where to find missing parts within fifteen seconds and regularly help diagnose car problems.

5. Ask for help
Even after you have established your relationship with the angels, you still need to remember to ask for help at the time you need it.

The angels respect your free will. On rare occasions, they will intercede without your speaking up. But most often, they politely wait to be called.

Michael (the mechanic) says that he sometimes struggles over a problem for a long time before he finally remembers to call for help. It often happens when he is trying to screw in a bolt in a place he can’t see.

“I can spend fifteen minutes trying and then I’ll say, ‘Angels, please help me do this,’ and boom! the thing starts,” he says.

Start to create your personal connection with the Archangel
Set up your angels altar
Create your quiet space
Find a special place in your home where you can put your favorite picture of an angel.

You might put it on a clean cloth and have a candle, some flowers and a favorite rock or seashell by the picture.

Set up your angels altar
Try saying the name of God
You can say the name God told Moses about in a short prayer we call a fiat.

Try this one:
I AM that I AM!
I AM that I AM!
I AM that I AM!

Set up your angels altar
Remember the Angels’ rules
1. They help you do God’s will.
2. What you pray for always has to be helpful to you and others.
3. It must be the right time.

The Hidden Power of Archangels
6. Repeat decrees and prayers
Prayers and decrees are more powerful when you repeat them.

Many Protestants avoid saying prayers more than once, seeing it as the vain repetition that Jesus advised against (Matt. 6:7). “After all,” they say, “why should I have to ask God for something more than one time?”

However, the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches practice repetition of the Our Father, Hail Mary and other prayers.

Jewish mystics repeated the names of God. For some mystics, repetition truly becomes prayer “without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).

The reason it is more effective to repeat a prayer is that each time you say it, you are giving more light-energy to God and the angels.

The angels can use that energy as a seed, adding more light-energy as they go about answering your request.

7. Send your prayer to the right address
If you want your pipes fixed, you call a plumber. If you want to be rescued from a mugger, you call to the angels of protection. If you want a relationship fixed, you call to the angels of love.

Angels have different jobs. And they use energies of different frequencies (corresponding to different colors) to accomplish those jobs.

In the following lessons you will meet seven kinds of angels, along with the seven archangels who supervise them. You will also learn which angels to call to for which tasks.

Lesson 1
Archangel Michael and Faith

Archangel Jophiel and Christine

Archangel Chamuel and Charity

Archangel Gabriel and Hope

Archangel Raphael and Mother Mary

Archangel Uriel and Aurora

Archangel Zadkiel and Holy Amethyst
The idea of seven archangels isn’t new. Neither is the association of angels with colors or with spiritual fire.

As early as the third century B.C., the Jewish tradition wrote about seven archangels. And they believed that the angels were surrounded by spiritual flames and appeared in a variety of colors.

You can become more closely connected with the angels when you call to the archangel whose angels specialize in handling what you want done.

8. Be specific
Angels answer your calls with precision, and they take pride in doing so. The more specific the request, the more specific the answer will be.

As long as you are living your life in harmony with the universal Source and devoting your energy to helping others, the angelic hosts will help you with the smallest details of your life.

One inspiring example is the penniless woman who turned over to God a grocery list during World War II.

She asked God specifically for the exact items she needed for her family’s weekend meals. Within a few hours, a man knocked on her door carrying a basket with everything she had asked for, right down to the veal, potatoes and pastry flour.

Here is how another woman worked with the angels to draw to herself the kind of truck she wanted.

Danette was looking for a used Toyota 4Runner but knew that she couldn’t afford the steep prices they cost. So she decided to leave it to the angels.

She wrote down the year, make, color, engine size, price range, mileage and type of rims and tires she wanted.

She also listed that she wanted a mechanically sound car with power steering, power brakes, power windows, power locks, air conditioning and cruise control.

She cut out a picture of the kind of truck she was looking for and carried it around in her wallet. Every day, she gave decrees and fiats to the angels for fifteen to forty-five minutes while looking at her list and picture.

After weeks of scanning the classifieds, Danette was a little concerned but didn’t give up. “I knew the angels were working on it…. I wouldn’t settle for less,” she said.

Finally, she decided to continue her search in another city, twelve hours away. Her friends there had told her that a 4Runner in her price range just wasn’t to be found.

But when she looked in the paper, there it was— “a 1990 Toyota 4Runner for $3,000 less than any other I had seen!” she said. The owner had just placed the ad that day and the car fit every one of her specifications, right down to the cruise control.

Her bank approved the loan and she drove home in her new 4Runner—thanking the angels all the way.

The more detailed your requests, the more satisfied you will be with the results.

9. Visualize what you want to happen
You can increase the power of your prayer by maintaining a strong mental picture of what you want to have happen.

In addition, visualize brilliant light surrounding the problem or situation.

Sometimes concentrating on a picture, as Danette did, can help too. Here is another example of how visualization works.

A group of students were driving home after attending a spiritual seminar when their car began to overheat. Since none of them had any extra money to spend on car repairs, they decided to ask the angels for help.

“Each time the needle started creeping up hotter and hotter, I would make fiery calls to the angels,” said Kevin, the driver.

“I told the people in the car to hold the visualization of snow, of crystal clear, cold mountain streams and ice all around the whole engine. Then we would watch the needle immediately go right back down as the temperature dropped to normal.”

The group made it home safely, thanks to the angels—and an effective visualization technique! Of course, it is better to combine angelic assistance with professional help when possible.

10. Expect to be surprised
The question occurs to just about anyone who has ever thought about angels: Why do the angels answer some prayers and not others?

Why does one person pray for ten years without getting what he wants while another gets it immediately?

Why are some houses destroyed by fire or flood while others are left untouched? Surely the angels hear everyone’s prayers.

One reason is that the angels’ ability to respond to our prayers is based upon the cumulative effects of our past actions—our good and bad deeds from this and previous lifetimes, also known as karma.

The angels are neither genies nor Santa Claus. They must play by the rules of karma.

When we pray and give devotion to the angels, they can sometimes eliminate the effects of karma, but often they can only reduce them.

The angels hear all of your prayers. But in order for your requests to be granted, they must fulfill three conditions:

1: they may not interfere with God’s plan for your soul (or with your karma)

2: they must not be harmful to you or anyone else

3: the timing must be right.

You could pray for years to win the lottery and not win. But you might get something you didn’t expect, like a higher-paying job that leads you in new directions.

Perhaps the angels couldn’t answer your prayer to win the lottery because your soul needs to learn the lesson of earning a living. But they did answer in the way that was best for you.

If you follow the steps in these lessons and still find that you don’t get an answer, the angels may be trying to tell you something.

It might be time to revise your prayer and try again. Keep praying, and know that the angels will give you the best answer that they can based on your soul’s needs. (See “A Call Is Answered.”) Prayer always bears fruit. You just have to know where to look.

A Call Is Answered
When she was sixteen, Lucy Krasowski had a premonition that she would die a violent death at age thirty. The feeling didn’t go away with adolescence. At twenty-five, she began asking God to keep her from the death she felt was fated.

In the meantime, she had become a Montreal police officer. Although violence against police officers is rarer in Canada than in America, Lucy felt that she was in danger and asked God to lead her to prayers for protection. She had heard that Archangel Michael was the patron of police officers and so she was looking for prayers to him.

She was thirty when she first attended a Summit Lighthouse Study Group meeting. There she learned decrees and prayers to Archangel Michael as well as the fiat “Archangel Michael, Help me! Help me! Help me!” She quickly memorized the decrees and began giving them on her way to and from work and during breaks. “I was in almost constant communion [with the angels],” she recalled.

On May 22, 1993, Lucy gave two hours of decrees to Archangel Michael before going to work at 8 p.m. That night, she and her partner were searching for an assault suspect. They pulled up to a man and asked him if he had seen anything. He leveled a 9 mm pistol at them and demanded their weapons. When they hesitated, he shot them both—Lucy in the head, face and leg and her partner in the head.

Lucy opened her door and fell out, trying to take cover under the car. “Lord Michael! Help me! Help me! Help me!” she called aloud. Her call frightened the gunman, who ran away, thinking she was radioing for help. This gave her the time to actually get to the radio. (The gunman was later caught and convicted.)

Although Lucy had been seriously wounded, the bullets missed her spinal cord and major blood vessels. “She…was probably within millimeters of having something tragic happen,” said her surgeon, Dr. Philip Dahan.

She attributes the near misses as well as her swift recovery to Archangel Michael. She never went into shock and was walking around two days after the shooting. Ten days after that, she left the hospital. Although her hearing was impaired and some of her facial muscles were paralyzed, she was able to hear in the low normal range. Lucy called her recovery “awesome,” especially since the doctors originally told her that she would never again hear out of her right ear.

Why didn’t Archangel Michael keep her from being shot in the first place? She believed that her karma—the cumulative effect of her past actions—prevented him from stopping the bullets. But she thought her prayers enabled him to redirect them so that she was not killed. Although her karma may have destined her to die at age thirty, her determination to live and her choice to pray changed her “fate.”

“My karma didn’t allow the bullets to be stopped, but what Archangel Michael did was just as good. He saved my life,” she said. “God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we expect him to.”

Start to create your personal connection with the Archangel
Set up your angels altar
Start a journal
Start your personal journal to connect with the Seven Archangels.

Try to answer some questions that can help you to improve your life with the help of the Archangels.

What would you like to gain from this lessons?
How would you like to have the archangels help you?
Are there certain areas of your life that could be going better? Relationships? Work? Health?
Set up your angels altar
Personal prayer request for anytime
In the name of the I AM THAT I AM, I call to the seven archangels and their legions of light, I call to beloved Archangel ___________ and the angels of ___________. I ask you to [insert request].

I ask that my call be multiplied and used for the assistance of all souls on this planet who are in need. I thank you and I accept it done this hour in full power, according to the will of God.

Set up your angels altar
The power of sound
Scientists are now researching sound’s impact on the brain and we all know of it’s impact on the heart.

Certain kinds of classical music, like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, have a range of positive effects, including temporarily raising IQ, expanding memory and speed learning.

Try to meditate on the archangels while listening to these composers. You may feel the presence of the Archangels.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Blessing Space

We can bless each space we enter, leaving a sweet energetic footprint behind.

Physical space acts like a sponge, absorbing the radiant of all who pass through it. And, more likely than not, the spaces we move through each day have seen many people come and go. We have no way of knowing whether the energy footprints left behind by those who preceded us will invigorate us or drain us. Yet we can control the energy footprint we leave behind for others. In blessing each space we enter, we orchestrate a subtle energy shift that affects not only our own experiences in that space but also the experiences of the individuals who will enter the space after us. While we may never see the effects our blessing has had, we can take comfort in the fact that we have provided grace for those that follow after us. 

When you bless a room or an entire building, you leave a powerful message of love and light for all those who will come after you. Your blessings thus have myriad effects on the environments through which you pass. Old, stagnant energy is cleared, creating a vacuum into which fresh and invigorating energy can freely flow. The space is thus rendered harmonious and nourishing, and it becomes a hub from which positive feelings are transmitted. Intent is the key component of the blessings you leave in your physical wake. If your intent involves using your own consciousness as a tool for selflessly spreading grace, your blessings will never go awry. Whether you feel more comfortable performing a solo blessing or prefer to call upon your spirit guides for assistance, visualize each space you enter becoming free of toxins, chaos, and negativity as you speak your blessing. Then imagine the resultant emptiness being replaced by pure, healing white light and loving energy. Even a quick mindful thought of love can bless a space. 

This type of blessing is cumulative and will grow each time you bestow it. Try blessing every home, business, and office you visit for an entire week and observing the effects of your goodwill. Your affirmative energy footprint will help brighten your day as you contemplate your blessing's future impact on your siblings in humanity and your environment.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Four Cardinal Virtues of Human Excellence According to Plato

“Wisdom is the leader: next follows moderation; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice.” ~ Plato
Human excellence is the art of character. Character is the art of practicing the four cardinal virtues. Practicing the four cardinal virtues (courage, moderation, wisdom, and justice) leads to moral virtue, which is best encapsulated by the concept of arete. And arete cultivated over a lifetime can lead to eudaimonia, human flourishing.
The concept of arete is from Homeric times. Although there is no specific definition, it is associated with bravery and effectiveness, intimately bound up with the notion of fulfillment and the act of living up to one’s full potential.
But it almost certainly hinges on the four cardinal virtues. In The Republic, Socrates assumed a wide acceptance of them as the core qualities in an excellent human. Let’s break them down…

1) Courage (fortitude):

“Without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ~ Maya Angelou
Courage is the bedrock of human excellence. Without the initial leap of courage there is no freedom, and so there can be no excellence. One is merely restricted to the conventional, inhibited by the whims of others, imprisoned inside the box of the status quo, and hampered by outdated reasoning.
With the leap of courage, however, one is emancipated. One is delivered into liberation. The world unlocks. The mind unbolts. The soul unfastens. Inhibitions dissolve into serendipity, adaptability, and improvisation. Boundaries transform into horizons. Comfort zones stretch into adventure.
But, there is a fine line between courage and recklessness. Courage involves seizing one’s impulses just as much as it involves seizing the day. One must be able to respond to a given situation with the proper balance of apprehension and confidence. Too much courage leads to recklessness; too little, to cowardice. Fitting that the next cardinal virtue is moderation.

2) Moderation (temperance):

“After the ecstasy, the laundry.” ~ Jack Kornfield
The beauty of life is that in order for it to exist there must be balance. The ugliness of life is that we are usually unable to understand what that balance is. Moderation can be deceiving, especially when we’re not tuned into healthy frequencies.
Luckily, health is a benchmark for moderation. It’s the core of universal law. Unluckily, this benchmark is hidden in a ‘language older than words,’ which can sometimes seem impossible to decode.
Although some things must be moderated more than others, extremism in anything is the bane of health. We can breathe too much oxygen. We can drink too much water. We can even live too much in the moment.
We moderate ‘being in the moment’ with the realization that even the moment needs a past and a future to define it. We maintain our personal health through moderation so that health in general can become manifest. Indeed. I live simply, so that you may simply live.
A good rule of thumb is: moderation in all things, to include moderation. This way we’re proactively injecting balance into the cosmos, while at the same time enjoying life. The key is to accept responsibility for the consequences of both our moderate and immoderate choices. Tricky, but wisdom can help.

3) Wisdom (prudence):

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” ~ Lao Tzu
Wisdom cannot be taught. Knowledge can be taught, but not wisdom. We can discover wisdom, live in it through experience, do wonders through it thereafter, but we cannot teach it.
If we define wisdom as a practical understanding of cosmic law and the skill (intention) in applying it to an ever-changing impermanent world, we see how it cannot be taught, only experienced. Wisdom is hands-on, never second-hand. Knowledge is second-hand, quantifiable, and measurable, but not wisdom.
As Dostoevsky said, “The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” It’s the humility at the heart of wisdom that cleanses hubris from the eye so that justice can be actualized.

4) Justice (liberty):

“The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.” ~ John Rawls
Humans are social creatures. As such, we are also story-telling creatures that create deep mythologies out of the stories we tell each other. Some of these stories are fiction and some of them are nonfiction, but they all require honesty and forthrightness in order to be just. Honest communication is the key.
Justice, essentially, is honest social communication and interaction. It’s being responsible with our power, no matter how much power we might have. Human excellence is predicated upon how responsible we are with our power over others.
If we lord our power over others, we are being unjust. If we use our power to help others flourish, we are being just. If we hoard power at the expense of others, we are being unjust and tyrannical. If we expiate power to empower others, we are being just and prestigious.
Ethos (ethike arete) is the heart of justice. It’s an essential ingredient of a robust character. An ethical human tends to be an excellent human. The art of character is a mastery of ethics practiced through the four cardinal virtues. Courage frees character. Moderation balances character. Wisdom guides character. Justice socially stabilizes character.
Through these four virtues the excellent human emerges as a venerated and valuable catalyst for human flourishing. New, unique, incomparable human beings who give themselves values, who create themselves out of courage, moderation, wisdom and justice. Who set up platforms for the next generation and for the healthy and progressive evolution of humanity.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Six Easy Ways to Find Your Purpose

For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, like launching an organization, researching disease, or teaching kids to read.

Do You Have a Sense of Purpose?

Indeed, a sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together, which may be why it’s linked to better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.
Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts; the ones that set you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination—a community.
Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.

1. Read

Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space, an experience that research says is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: ‘Meaning’ and ‘purpose’ are linked but separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and self-worth.)
Reading connects usResearch says that reading is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose.
In a 2010 paper, for example, Leslie Francis studied a group of nearly 26,000 teenagers throughout England and Wales and found that those who read the Bible more tended to have a stronger sense of purpose. Secular reading seems to make a difference, as well. In a survey of empirical studies, Raymond A. Mar and colleagues found a link between reading poetry and fiction, and a sense of purpose among adolescents. They suggest:
Reading fiction might allow adolescents to reason about the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into an entire lifespan without having to have fully lived most of their own lives.
By seeing purpose in the lives of other people, teens are more likely to see it in their own lives. In this sense, purpose is an act of the imagination.
Many people I interviewed for this article mentioned pivotal books or ideas they found in books.
The writing of historian, W.E.B. Du Bois, pushed social-justice activist, Art McGee, to embrace a specific vision of African-American identity and liberation. Journalist, Michael Stoll, found inspiration in the “social responsibility theory of journalism,” which he read about at Stanford University. “Basically, reporters and editors have not just the ability but also the duty to improve their community by being independent arbiters of problems that need solving,” he says. “It’s been my professional North Star ever since.”
Spurred by this idea, Michael went on to launch an award-winning nonprofit news agency, called The San Francisco Public Press.
So, if you’re feeling a crisis of purpose in your life, go to the bookstore or library or university. Find books that matter to you—and they might help you to see what matters in your own life.

2. Turn Hurts into Healing for Others

Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow out of suffering; both our own and others’.
Our pain can help othersOur pain can lead us to find purpose in helping others through similar experiences.
Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. “I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”
When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.” She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with ‘issues,’” kids like the one she had once been. She says:
I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.
Sometimes, another person’s pain can lead us to purpose. When Christopher Pepper was a senior in high school, a “trembling, tearful friend” told him that she had been raped by a classmate. “I comforted as well as I could, and left that conversation vowing that I would do something to keep this from happening to others,” says Christopher. He kept that promise by becoming a Peer Rape Educator in college, and then a sex educator in San Francisco public schools.
Why do people like Kezia and Christopher seem to find purpose in suffering, while others are crushed by it? Part of the answer, as we’ll see next, might have to do with the emotions and behaviors we cultivate in ourselves.

3. Cultivate Awe, Gratitude, and Altruism

Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose—specifically, awe, gratitude, and altruism.
Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s, Dacher Keltner, have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose.
Gratitude breeds purposeThose who count their blessings are more likely to contribute to the world.
Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play. A leading expert on purpose, psychologist Kendall Bronk, writes:
It may seem counterintuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mindset, but it works.
As research by William Damon, Robert Emmons, and others has found, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to “contribute to the world beyond themselves.” This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.
Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, at this point, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, for example, Daryl Van Tongeren and colleagues found that people who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.
Interestingly, gratitude and altruism seem to work together to generate meaning and purpose. In a second experiment, the researchers randomly assigned some participants to write letters of gratitude—and those people later reported a stronger sense of purpose. More recent work, by Christina Karns and colleagues, found that altruism and gratitude are neurologically linked, activating the same reward circuits in the brain.

4. Listen to What Other People Appreciate about You

Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.
Like Kezia Willingham, Shawn Taylor had a tough childhood—and he was also drawn to working with kids who had severe behavioral problems. Unlike her, however, he often felt like the work was a dead-end. “I thought I sucked at my chosen profession,” he says. Then, one day, a girl he’d worked with five years before contacted him.
Appreciation fuels purposeAppreciation can bring us back to, and fuel, our purpose.
“She detailed how I helped to change her life,” says Shawn, and she asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Shawn hadn’t even thought about her, in all that time. “Something clicked and I knew this was my path. No specifics, but youth work was my purpose.”
The artists, writers, and musicians I interviewed often described how appreciation from others fueled their work. Dani Burlison never lacked a sense of purpose, and she toiled for years as a writer and social-justice activist in Santa Rosa, California. But when wildfires swept through her community, Dani discovered that her strengths were needed in a new way: “I’ve found that my networking and emergency response skills have been really helpful to my community, my students, and to firefighters!”
Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships and those are often the source of our purpose, as many of these stories suggest.

5. Find and Build Community

As we see in Dani’s case, we can often find our sense of purpose in the people around us.
Many people told me about finding purpose in family. In tandem with his reading, Art McGee found purpose—working for social and racial justice—in “love and respect for my hardworking father,” he says. “Working people like him deserved so much better.”
Environmental and social-justice organizer, Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, feels driven “to leave the world in a better place than I found it.” Becoming a mom “strengthened that purpose (it’s going to be their world, and their kids’ world),” she says. It “definitely influences how I parent (wanting to raise anti-racist, feminist, radical kids who will want to continue the fight and be leaders).”
Build your communityCommunity gives us a sense of belonging, and therefore, a greater sense of purpose. 
Of course, our kids may not embrace our purpose. Amber Cantorna was raised by purpose-driven parents who were right-wing Christians. “My mom had us involved in stuff all the time, all within that conservative Christian bubble,” she says. This family and community fueled a strong sense of purpose in Amber: “To be a good Christian and role model. To be a blessing to other people.”
The trouble is that this underlying purpose involved making other people more like them. When she came out as a lesbian at age 27, Amber’s family and community swiftly and suddenly cast her out. This triggered a deep crisis of purpose; one that she resolved by finding a new faith community “that helped shape me and gave me a sense of belonging,” she says.
Often, the nobility of our purpose reflects the company we keep. The purpose that came from Amber’s parents was based on exclusion, as she discovered. There was no place—and no purpose—for her in that community once she embraced an identity they couldn’t accept. A new sense of purpose came with the new community and identity she helped to build, of gay and lesbian Christians.
If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it to them?
If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.

6. Tell Your Story

Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing.
Purpose often arises from curiosity about your own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make life better for others?
Tell your storyWriting helps us understand ourselves and our lives and expressing that can help others.
“We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the 2017 book The Power of Meaning.
It gives us clarity on our own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.
That’s why Amber Cantorna wrote her memoir, Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God. At first, depressed after losing everyone she loved, Amber soon discovered new strengths in herself and now she is using her book to help build a nonprofit organization called Beyond to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians in their coming-out process.
One 2008 study found that those who see meaning and purpose in their lives are able to tell a story of change and growth, where they managed to overcome the obstacles they encountered. In other words, creating a narrative like Amber’s can help us to see our own strengths and how applying those strengths can make a difference in the world, which increases our sense of self-efficacy.
This is a valuable reflective process to all people, but Amber took it one step further, by publishing her autobiography and turning it into a tool for social change. Today, Amber’s purpose is to help people like her feel less alone.


Effective Mindfulness Technique for People Who Struggle to Meditate

By Edwina Shaw

Sophrology Exercises

Here are a couple of simple exercises used by sophrologists.
To release mind/body tension:
Stand in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your body. Are you feeling any tension? Where is it located in your body? Is your mind so busy that you can’t concentrate? In an effort to release body and mind tension, bring both arms straight above your head then inhale deeply, inflating your abdomen first, then your chest, and hold your breath. While holding your breath, tense every part of your body, including your face and toes, for 3 seconds. Release the tension as you exhale and lower your arms. As you breathe out, be aware of tension being released from your whole body and let go of it.
Do this exercise three times slowly, taking the time to really experience the sensation of relaxation that occurs with the exhalations.
The 11 Sophrology Exercises for Level 1
To calm and focus the mind:
1. Inhale for a comfortable count, then exhale for longer than your exhalation by a count or two. Breathe into your belly feeling it rise with your inhalation and fall with your exhalation. Allow 3 to 4 minutes for this exercise and feel the benefits.
2. Humming: Inhale, and as you exhale, gently hum. Make sure your humming is longer than the inhalation. Notice how the sounds make different parts of your body vibrate.
Yoga practitioners will recognise these as variations of pranayamatechniques.
The exercises, such as those given above, and demonstrated in the video, are easy to remember and can be done anytime, anywhere. When practiced regularly, the exercises train your mind and body to become healthier and stronger and more focused on a rational, yet positive, approach to life. Working one-on-one with a sophrologist, you may be able to focus in on problem areas and work through them gently and without medication. As with any mind/body practice, regular practise is the key to success.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Four Main Spiritual Practices of Tibetan Buddhism

By Chad Foreman

Ever since I read a book by the Dalai Lama I have been hooked on Tibetan Buddhism. I even spent a year as a Buddhist monk 2003/2004. I spent six years studying full time whilst living in a retreat hut at a Tibetan Buddhist centre in Queensland Australia, where I learned a great deal about the subject, and had some amazing realisations about my self and the world. I have since gone my own way trying to translate the deep wisdom I’ve found into understandable and modern ways.
Tibetan Buddhism is a unique depository of Eastern thought. The country is nestled between China and India, Kashmir and Nepal and has adopted elements of different traditions including Shaivism, Indian Tantra, Japanese Zen, of course Indian Buddhism. It also includes elements of the shamanistic tradition of Bon, which was native to Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 8th century. Tibetan Buddhism is an eclectic mix of the best of the Orient, which can make it difficult to penetrate, so different Tibetan masters over the years have summed it up into several main categories. It has even become a curriculum of gradual stages to enlightenment, expressing all the great traditions in a step by step path to complete and full enlightenment. This blog is in that vein – trying to sum up the many and various practices of Tibetan Buddhism into an easy to understand spiritual path.
Alt text hereBuddhism has drawn from a variety of Eastern traditions
The four main spiritual practices of Tibetan Buddhism are Renunciation, Bodhicitta, Emptiness and Vajrayana.


Renunciation has the connotation of turning away from something. What is not as widely known is that it’s also a turning toward something. It means to turn away from worldly pursuits to achieve happiness, and turn toward inner and spiritual means to achieve happiness and fulfilment. It is the beginning of the spiritual quest after realising the limitations of wealth, fame and material possessions to bring lasting happiness.
Often in the West we think “If I’m just successful in my career and have abundant wealth, I will surely be really happy”. Of course, people who have achieved these measures of success have discovered the ancient truth for themselves; that these things are not inherently satisfying, and have no meaning other than what we attribute them. Sometimes it takes a ridiculously wealthy and successful person like Russell Brand to remind us of this truth:
“Increasingly I’ve realised; everybody has beauty within themselves, and if you find this and accept this, then you will be happy regardless of external attributes or material things.”
Alt text hereHappiness comes from within
‘Money can’t buy happiness’ is a cliché, however the Buddhists go further and meditate on the fact that everything changes, and therefore no material possession can bring lasting satisfaction.
It is written as a noble truth that all conditions of the world are unsatisfactory, constantly changing, and have no lasting substance. Through meditation and contemplating this noble truth, a person turns away from pursuing these things. Instead they turn towards what mystics and masters have advised will bring lasting happiness and fulfilment – or enlightenment – and freedom from clinging onto worldly conditions, in order to satisfy our desires.
When you are convinced of these facts right down to your bones, you have entered a spiritual path and have realised renunciation.
Alt text hereRenunciation frees us from perceived limitations and social conditionings


Bodhicitta is a type of great love and compassion that informs and motivates our spiritual pursuits. Upon reflection of the insubstantial nature of the world and the vicious cycle of looking for satisfaction in objects – which are inherently unsatisfying – we realise the unnecessary suffering of ourselves and everyone else in the world who is still trapped by the delusions of desirous attachment to things. This gives rise to a type of natural compassion that is motivated to help others, which is cultivated by first helping ourselves to become free of our own attachments.

The wish to be free to be the most benefit to all other beings is based on a recognition of the equality of all people. The intimate connection we have with every living creature comes from countless lifetimes of interrelating, our shared suffering, and our shared pursuit of happiness.  We all want to be happy and we all want to avoid suffering, but unfortunately we are trapped in patterns that undermine our own, and others’ happiness.
Bodhicitta is the courageous attitude that we are all in this together, and if I am to end suffering, I aim to end all suffering. Bodhicitta is therefore as humble as it is grand. Humbly bowing in respect to all living creatures in deep appreciation of our shared suffering and shared pursuit of emancipation.  I cannot achieve my own peace when my brothers and sisters of the world are still trapped in suffering. It would be like taking all the life boats on a sinking ship just for yourself.
Alt text hereWe need not be rich to give the gift of compassion
Luckily this type of great love and compassion for all beings is also a great protector of our own minds. It’s impossible to feel love and hate for someone at the same time. When we can love even our enemies, our own minds and hearts are transformed with resilience and purpose, helping to make life meaningful. As the Dalai Lama has assured us:
“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion.”


As the Dalai Lama has jokingly said “for something that is indescribable there sure are a lot of books written about it.” He is referring to Sunyata or what has been most commonly translated as emptiness. Realising the truth of emptiness gives rise to the deepest wisdom, and the power to purify ignorance and transcend suffering. Therefore it is probably the most widely practised meditation and contemplation of Tibetan Buddhism.
In its simplest form, emptiness is the fact that everything changes and therefore has no lasting identity or substance. When we look at anything and label it, that thing is in no way fixed and what we are labelling is the present moment appearance of something that is in flux. Because labels don’t change but things do, we only get an approximation of the world, yet we are convinced that we are seeing the whole truth of things.
Alt text hereMonks commonly practise impermanence by making sand Mandalas, which they destroy upon completion
Another way of looking at emptiness, is that the map (labels/thoughts) are not the territory. No matter how good the picture or representation of something is, it is always different from the lived experience of it. That is why with mindfulness, we are taught to try and be aware of the present moment in a non judgemental way, and therefore taking in more of reality and less of our opinions about reality. Reality is only truly touched fully when we experience things directly without the mediation of language. Seng Tsan a great Zen master says:
“If you want to experience the truth simply give up your opinions for or against anything and the truth with reveal itself.”
All of human knowledge is stored in language and concepts, so what happens when you give up the obvious intelligence of concepts? A huge void opens up. This void transcends language and concepts, and is the direct experience of countless mystics throughout the ages.
Alt text herePresence and non-judgement allows space for the truth
It turns out the void is not empty at all. Those who have directly experienced this transcendent reality report a fullness, an interconnectivity of all things, and most commonly of all, a deep sense of love and peace are found in this most mystical of experiences. Meditating on emptiness by seeing things without judgement or labels, and particularly seeing yourself without any judgement or labels, opens up a whole new mysterious world filled with its own deep wisdom, unconditional love and radiant bliss.


Literally it means the diamond path, and it is usually practised after the realisations of renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness. The void filled with love, wisdom and bliss are understood to be the nature of all beings and all things, and is sometimes called the ground or source of being. Vajrayana is a skillful means to directly relate with this underlying reality, and bring it into the world through visualisation, mantras and blissful energy.
Alt text hereWe have the power to create that which we focus our attention on
The foundation of Vajrayana is faking it until you make it, or in other words, visualising yourself as an emanation or extension of the underlying fabric of reality which has been understood to be void, love and bliss. There are many different deities or enlightened figures in Tibetan Buddhism which a practitioner can visualise themselves as, but essentially it is about visualising and imagining yourself as a fully enlightened being made of love and light. As the modern saying goes ‘whatever you can conceive, you can achieve’ so there’s great intelligence in this ancient inner technology, which employs the imagination to conceive yourself as an enlightened being; radiating love, bliss and benefitting every single sentient being in the universe.
The second stage of Vajrayana, is using the bodies subtle energy system to help connect with bliss and access ever deeper states of consciousness. By working with energy channels in the body and Chakras, the meditator experiences the unity of all beings, and transforms mundane sexual desire into a powerful fuel, igniting a super charged path to the enlightened state. This untapped blissful energy is within all beings, and Vajrayana brings it to the surface where it is literally working with the blissful rays of the underlying source of reality. As Lama Yeshe says:
“We all have a tremendous energy within us more powerful than an atomic bomb which is a fantastic resource to achieve the highest goal of enlightenment.”
Alt text hereWith practise, we can all learn to harness the power of our minds

Bringing Eastern Practices and Teachings to the Western World

I have practised all four of these spiritual paths, and can testify that they are extremely beneficial and meaningful. I teach these forms of meditation, and encourage people to engage with them to the best of their ability. Each one contains its own wisdom and has its own positive effects on my life. After many years of practising these spiritual paths, I stumbled upon the secret teachings of Tibetan Dzogchen in books hidden at the back of the library in the Tibetan Buddhist centre where I lived. Dzogchen, which is sometimes referred to as the highest path of Tibetan Buddhism, contains all the above gradual paths, but it also contains a radical meditation on the non dual, or instantaneous path to enlightenment.
The radical instantaneous approach recognises that renunciation, love and compassion, the void filled with wisdom and bliss, is actually already existing in a complete and eternal way within all sentient beings. The teachings say that all that is required is to give up all pursuits and efforts to get anywhere else, and instead rest in your natural state of completion and fulfilment. Because our nature is already perfect – sometimes referred to as pure awareness, or simply ‘Being’ – we only have to stop all fabrication and manipulation, and come to rest in the great natural peace of who we truly are.
Alt text hereLove is our true essence
After years of effort, study, retreats, and thousands of hours of practise, I did finally rest and discovered the truth of these teachings. To this day I am not sure if I could realise it instantaneously because of all the previous work I had done, or if it was there all along waiting for me to see it, so today I teach both the gradual, and instantaneous approaches in order to meet people where they are at, and with what they need at the time.