Thursday, December 30, 2010

Because you exist, so does life, so does value, so does meaning. Happy New Year!

Each time you say something. It’s a risk. Someone could shoot it down. Each time you stand up for what you believe in. It’s a risk. Someone could attack your deeply held belief. Each time you dream, wish, hope. It’s a risk. You could fail. Each time you open your heart. It’s a risk. You could get hurt. Each time you create and share what you’ve created. It’s a risk. The world could deride you, ignore you, crush you.

It takes courage. Just to exist. Just to get up every morning and then be yourself that day. Be your true, authentic self. It take courage to look the world in the eye when you know that the world will see your sorrows, see your pain, see your weaknesses, see your fears. And then it takes something more than courage to sustain that eye contact, state your intent and then mould the world through your inner fire, through your living breath, through your indomitable will into the shape you want to give it. It takes faith. Faith in yourself, in your vision, in your integrity, in your choices.

It takes hope. To go on living from day to day. Where every day you learn. Where every day you’re humbled by how much more there is still to learn. It takes courage to be willing to learn. Because if you want to learn, you have to admit there is something you don’t know. Because to learn you need to be humble. And then when you’ve learned, you find you need more courage to break out of your old shell, to come out of your safe place, to stand center stage, with the spot light shining on you, with the world watching…will you soar or will you fall? If you fail, you have to be strong to survive that failure. If you succeed, you have to be strong to sustain that success.

If you just drew a breath, you’re already there. Because that breath will make you live longer, because just by breathing you’re choosing to live. And it takes tremendous courage, my friend, to live. To live in a world where no one is guaranteed love or happiness or security. What sustain us? I’m not curious about beings from another planet; beings from my own planet awe me with their tremendous courage, with their incredible resilience, with their never-ending faith. Their faith in themselves and in life, that, yes, this is indeed a life worth living. So where is all this faith and courage coming from? From your core. From the deepest part of you where resides the true meaning of your being, from the part of you touched by divinity, from the part of you fashioned by life’s love for itself. From a part of you that is sacred.

In about twenty-four hours from now, our calendars will change, heralding a new year. Such an arbitrary measure of time. But so psychologically potent. Stepping into a new tomorrow. Older, wiser, trailing a slew of mistakes, trailing a blaze of glory. So what do I wish you on the eve of the new year? I could wish you success, peace, happiness, love. And, yes, I do wish you those. But my biggest wish for you this coming year is that you find your core. That you discover your inherent value and having found it, you nurture it, and let it sustain you.

Galaxies come into being and pass away into oblivion. The world spins on its axis and it will keep spinning after I am gone, after you are gone. But we existed you and I, we were here, we saw, we lived, we loved, we cried. And while I’m just an idea in your head and you in mine, there were moments when we intermingled our essences, when we came together in this vast span of space and time, performed our parts, then took our bows before we left the stage. We added meaning to the moments we lived, whether we lived those moments alone or with someone else.

Because you exist, so does life, so does value, so does meaning. Happy New Year! 

110 Tips to Create an Amazing New Year

by Tess

“Resolutions are like teenage hearts: they get broken an awful lot.” –Mehmet Oz 
The concept that our happiness lies within is no secret. Yet as we begin the New Year we create goals that are externally focused. We promise ourselves we’ll lose weight, get out of debt, stop smoking, stop drinking or increase our income. 

Statistics say by February 90% of our resolutions will be broken. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” 
I encourage you to "be" different this year. 

Instead of creating resolutions, make internal changes by incorporating these wise suggestions into your life.  

1. See the good in everyone.
2. Show kindness.
3. Encourage laughter.
4. Practice tenderness.
5. Focus on the positive.
6. Reflect joy.
7. Seek help.
8. Forgive yourself.
9. Forgive everyone.
10. Learn to ask and receive.
11. Inspire others.
12. Believe good things are happening.
13. Shift your perception.
14. Praise others.
15. Surrender struggle.
16. Walk in faith.
17. Manifest courage.
18. Seek solutions.
19. See oneness.
20. Share abundantly.
21. Sit in silence.
22. Ask for guidance.
23. Be prolific.
24. Speak your truth.
25. Connect with nature.
26. Receive help.
27. Be patient.
28. Live and let live.
29. Believe the best.
30. Live without approval.
31. Uplift others.
32. Extend love.
33. Teach by example.
34. Think peacefully.
35. Become truly helpful.
36. Drop your stories.
37. Appreciate differences.
38. Show up prepared.
39. Be present.
40. Hold a vision.
41. Do your best.
42. Believe the best.
43. Walk in faith.
44. Bless others.
45. Give and receive love.
46. Know you matter.
47. Practice what you believe.
48. Choose happiness.
49. Celebrate the ordinary.
50. Welcome change, growth and healing.
51. Believe anything is possible.
52. Love everyone.
53. Connect from your heart.
54. Act intuitively.
55. Embrace each day.
56. Trust in Divine Order.
57. Calmly move through change.
58. Take 100% responsibility.
59. Surrender judgment.
60. Extend joy.
61. Give infinite thanks.
62. Reach out to others.
63. Give yourself credit.
64. Simplify your life.
65. Want what you have.
66. Search within for answers.
67. Open your mind.
68. Believe, ask, receive.
69. Choose uplifting thoughts.
70. Help others succeed.
71. Express your love often.
72. Be a beacon of light.
73. Ask for guidance.
74. Stay centered.
75. Cultivate love.
76. Trust the process.
77. Live guilt-free.
78. Positively acknowledge others.
79. Dwell in possibility.
80. Claim your abundance.
81. Give what you want to receive.
82. Accept and love yourself.
83. Develop new habits.
84. Practice non-attachment.
85. Tap into creativity.
86. Expand your consciousness.
87. Lighten up.
88. Give everyone a break.
89. Quiet your mind.
90. Live spontaneously.
91. Imagine the best outcome.
92. Be a channel for peace.
93. Follow your intuition.
94. Live effortlessly.
95. Allow rather than control.
96. Dare to risk.
97. Practice compassion.
98. Fear not.
99. Choose to heal.
100. Practice non-attachment.
101. Give others a break.
102. Step forward in faith.
103. Listen more, talk less.
104. Recognize what goes right.
105. Pray for world peace.
106. Withhold nothing.
107. Savor life.
108. Live with an unrelenting, upbeat attitude.
109. Become open to amazing people, places and things.
110. Allow the future will take care of itself. 
Relish and revel in the results.
Happy New Year,
Tess xo
What will be different for you in 2011?

Happy Holidays

“Tis the season to be jolly”—but isn’t that always easier said than done? While the holidays of course bring us many joys—family reunions, good food, thoughtful gifts—they also entail an incredible amount of stress: 
Those family reunions can dredge up old family conflicts, the good food often requires lots of careful preparation, and holiday shopping can be a nightmare. So how can we stay grounded and present and truly let ourselves feel the holiday spirit? 

Rhienna Cutler
Though the next gadget or experience may bring fleeting pleasure, research shows that genuine happiness is about how we feel inside. To really enjoy the holidays, try these simple, research-based practices that will help keep you in a healthy state of mind.

1. Set your intention to enjoy the holidays as much as you can. By making the conscious decision to open yourself to true well-being and happiness, you’ll be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them. Psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that by setting your intention, you “prime” your brain to be ready for positive experiences. And this can spur a positive cycle of happiness: Research by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson shows that when we allow ourselves to feel positive emotions, we become more open and sensitive to future positive experiences, bringing us even more of those good feelings down the line.

2. Savor any moments of well-being when they’re here. Don’t just know that you’re feeling good. Let your awareness savor how the experience registers in your body and mind for 15 or 30 seconds. (Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls this “taking in the good.”) Research by Fred Bryant, a professor of psychology at Loyola University, has found that savoring positive experiences strengthens our positive response to them. And neuroscience studies have shown that the longer we hold an emotionally stimulating experience in our awareness, the more neural connections form in our brains to strengthen the trace of that experience in our memory. 

3. Take a break, regain your focus. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your To Do list, remember to take a few breaths. Take a break and enjoy a cup of tea or a hot bath. Try some yoga or exercise. Or get out of the doing mode for a little while and let yourself just relax. It can be challenging to disengage from the clutch of activity and connect with the moment in a restful way. But research suggests that it’s worth the effort to slow down and regain your focus: A recent study out of Harvard found that a wandering mind—typical in our multitasking culture—is a strong cause of unhappiness.  

4. Practice gratitude. Don’t take your good fortune for granted. Consciously reflect on all the blessings in your life each day. Express your appreciation directly to loved ones and friends when you’re with them. You and they will both feel the joy of loving connection. In a study by Martin Seligman, a leader in the field of positive psychology, people who considered themselves severely depressed were asked to write down three good things that happened each day for 15 days. At the end of the experiment, 94 percent of these subjects had a decrease in depression and 92 percent said their happiness increased. A study published earlier this year in the journal Psychological Science found that people who expressed gratitude to others felt significantly closer to those people afterward.

5. Practice generosity. Neuroscience research shows that performing an altruistic act lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex! Whenever you feel the impulse to be generous, act on it. As you do, notice the expansive feelings in your body and mind. Without expecting anything in return, notice how good it feels inside when you see someone happy because of your sincere generosity. It can be as simple and profound as being fully present for a friend, sharing the gift of your caring and attention. Or when you open the door for someone, consider the positive impulse behind that act. Anytime you do something that contributes to the well-being of another, let yourself feel the joy of generosity. And be sure to include yourself in your generosity practice.

6. Play and have fun. Remember what it was like when you were a kid during the holidays? Let yourself experience that again. Be around kids if you can. Tune into and take delight in their enthusiasm. Singing or dancing are excellent ways to get out of your head and open to joy. As David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, writes, “Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social emotional development at all ages.”

Finally, remember that happiness is contagious: Research shows that happiness can spread like a virus across three degrees of separation; if you’re happy, you increase the odds that your close friends and family will be happy, too. So the more you can stay connected to your own happiness, the more you help others get in touch with their own well-being. We all benefit when you can awaken the joy within you. Happy Holidays! 

Holiday shopping can be terrifying, yes. But research suggests it’s worth it: New studies attest to the benefits of giving—not just for the recipients but for the givers’ health and happiness, and for the strength of entire communities. 

Roger Jegg
Of course, you don’t have to shop to reap the benefits of giving. Research suggests the same benefits come from donating to charities or volunteering your time, like at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Here are some of the ways that giving is good for you and your community.

1. Giving makes us feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.
These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.” 

2. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.
A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving help wasn’t linked to a reduced death risk.

Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. When you give, you’re more likely to get back: Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. 

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.

Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

5. Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.

A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak

So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just a year-end chore. It may help you build stronger social connections and even jumpstart a cascade of generosity through your community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Honoring All Experiences

Honoring the experiences we have in our lives is an invaluable way to communicate with life, our greatest teacher.

Honoring the experiences we have in our lives is an invaluable way to communicate with life, our greatest teacher. We do this when we take time at night to say what we are thankful for about our day and also when we write in a journal. Both of these acts involve consciously acknowledging the events of our lives so that they deepen our relationship to our experiences. This is important because it brings us into closer connection with life, and with the moment. Only when we acknowledge what's happening to us can we truly benefit from life's teachings.

It is especially important when pain comes our way to honor the experience, because our natural tendency is to push it away and move past it as quickly as possible. We tend to want to brush it under the rug. Yet, if we don't, it reveals itself to be a great friend and teacher. As counterintuitive as it seems, we can honor pain by thanking it and by welcoming it into the space of our lives. We all know that often the more we resist something, the longer it persists. When we honor our pain, we do just the opposite of resisting it, and as a result, we create a world in which we can own the fullness of what life has to offer.

We can honor a painful experience by marking it in some way, bringing ourselves into a more conscious relationship with it. We might mark it by creating a work of art, performing a ritual, or undertaking some other significant act. Sometimes all we need to do is light a candle in honor of what we've gone through and what we've learned. No matter how small the gesture, it will be big enough to mark the ways in which our pain has transformed us, and to remind us to recognize and value all that comes our way in this life. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Solace in Service

Doing for Others

Many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people in loving service.

When we feel bad, often our first instinct is to isolate ourselves and focus on what's upsetting us. Sometimes we really do need some downtime, but many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people. In being of service to others, paradoxically, we often find answers to our own questions and solutions to our own problems. We also end up feeling more connected to the people around us, as well as empowered by the experience of helping someone.

When we reach out to people we can help, we confirm that we are not alone in our own need for support and inspiration, and we also remind ourselves that we are powerful and capable in certain ways. Even as our own problems or moods get the better of us sometimes, there is always someone else who can use our particular gifts and energy to help them out. They, in turn, remind us that we are not the only people in the world with difficulties or issues. We all struggle with the problems of life, and we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we can almost always find solace in service.

In the most ideal situation, the person we are helping sheds light on our own dilemma, sometimes with a direct piece of advice, and sometimes without saying anything at all. Sometimes just the act of getting our minds out of the obsessive mode of trying to figure out what to do about our own life does the trick. Many great inventors and artists have found that the inspiration they need to get to the next level in their work comes not when they're working but when they're walking around the block or doing dishes. We do ourselves and everyone else a great service when we take a break from our sorrows and extend ourselves to someone in need. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prayer and Meditation - Asking and Receiving

Put very simply, prayer is when we ask the universe for something, and meditation is when we stop and listen.

Prayer and meditation are similar practices in that they both offer us a connection to the divine, but they also differ from one another in significant ways. Put simply, prayer is when we ask the universe for something, and meditation is when we listen. When we pray, we use language to express our innermost thoughts and feelings to a higher power. Sometimes, we plumb the depths within ourselves and allow whatever comes to the surface to flow out in our prayer. At other times, we pray words that were written by someone else but that express what we want to say. Prayer is reaching out to the universe with questions, pleas for help, gratitude, and praise.

Meditation, on the other hand, has a silent quality that honors the art of receptivity. When we meditate, we cease movement and allow the activity of our minds and hearts to go on without us in a sense. Eventually, we fall into a deep silence, a place that underlies all the noise and fray of daily human existence. In this place, it becomes possible for us to hear the universe as it speaks for itself, responds to our questions, or sits with us in its silent way.

Both prayer and meditation are indispensable tools for navigating our relationship with the universe and with ourselves. They are also natural complements to one another, and one makes way for the other just as the crest of a wave gives way to its hollow. If we tend to do only one or the other, prayer or meditation, we may find that we are out of balance, and we might benefit from exploring the missing form of communication. There are times when we need to reach out and express ourselves, fully exorcising our insides, and times when we are empty, ready to rest in quiet receiving. When we allow ourselves to do both, we begin to have a true conversation with the universe.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feed Someone: mini-mission

There are many ways to feed someone and to be fed. We are all hungry for different things at different times.
We hunger for love, sleep, success, a vacation, and of course, food. If you are reading this, then it is possible, that like me, you hunger for less.

While there are many benefits of living with less, the best is that you have the time and attention to give more. Today’s mini-mission is a great demonstration of that. Take a little time during the hustle of the holidays, or anytime, and Feed Someone. Following are 10 ways to take on this mini-mission. You only need to choose one to accomplish the mission, change someone’s day, or maybe even their world. Keep in mind that the world you change, might be your own.

5 Ways to Feed Emotionally

  1. Say I love you.
  2. Email someone in your web world a thank you note.
  3. Write a love letter.
  4. Double or triple your tip at your next meal out.
  5. Call the owner of a business tell them about the great service you received.

5 Ways to Feed Literally

There are just over 300 million people that live in the U.S. There are more than 925 million hungry people in the world. One of those 925 million hungry people live near you. You can feed them.
  1. Volunteer at a food kitchen.
  2. Make sandwiches and bring them to the park or an area where there are homeless people.
  3. Bring boxes of food to your local food bank.
  4. If you see someone hungry the next time you go out to eat, buy them a meal.
  5. Donate money to a food ministry.
For the purposes of this mini-mission reserve judgment. Keep it simple and just Feed Someone. I think you will find that you will be fed every time you give. It is my experience, that when I give my talent, time or treasure, I hunger for nothing.

It was a challenge to keep my lists to just 5 ways. What are other ways to feed someone? If you take this challenge, I want to know about your experience.

Love and Emptiness

The first realization on the Buddhist path is our own emptiness—we look at the self and find nothing permanent. The next step is the egolessness of other, says Sakyong Mipham, and the way we discover it, interestingly, is through love and compassion.

What is buddhahood? It is the attaining of egolessness. But what are we realizing the egolessness of?

According to the Theravada school of Buddhism, if we attain egolessness of self, we realize nirvana, enlightenment. This is a common approach: to attain enlightenment for oneself. But when we have discovered the emptiness of the self, what is left? The other. In the Mahayana school, the "Great Path," egolessness of other is one of the most profound teachings.

The self has no entity in itself, but it believes it does. Its nature is that it spreads. Wherever it goes it pervades; whatever it encounters it begins to absorb as “I.” For example, when we are born, somehow our consciousness has been able to transfer from our previous life into this body, which exists only in a temporary way. Once we came into this body, we thought, "Hmm, not bad. It’s not mine, but I’ll make it mine." And once we got used to our body, we immediately began thinking: my mother, my father, my house. Then my city, my state, my country, my planet, and so forth.

Ego has no boundary. It can go on continuously, appropriating other. When we come in contact with something, initially we look at it in a neutral way; we see it as belonging to somebody else, or maybe belonging to no one. If we see a tree, we don’t automatically think, “My tree.” Then we build a house next to it—and after a while, we think, “My tree.” This happens in any situation. When we buy an article of clothing, at first it feels foreign, but then it begins to feel familiar as my shirt. It is other, but the ego is constantly solidifying it as self.

The Mahayana teaches that complete egolessness comes about only when we have understood egolessness of other as well as the egolessness of self. There are two approaches in terms of how to practice the Mahayana: the direct path and the gradual path. On the direct path, we recognize the empty nature of self and other on the spot. On the gradual path, we recognize the nature of things progressively: First we recognize the self as empty. Then we recognize other to be empty. Then we recognize things to be the mind, and that this mind itself is empty.

These teachings direct us toward helping other sentient beings, because being able to help others is grounded in having discovered the emptiness of the self. So Mahayana logic is that we begin to flip from self to other.

A crucial element of the Mahayana is the bodhichitta practice of tonglen, “sending and taking.” In Tibetan, tong means “to send,” and len means “to get.” With a basic understanding of this practice, we begin to draw in the pain of others and send out goodness.

We can practice this exchange in many ways. For instance, we can do it specifically for someone who is ill, taking in that person’s suffering and claustrophobia and breathing out spaciousness. We do that by visualizing the inbreath as heavy and the outbreath as light, drawing in negative energy and sending out love.

At first it is important that we take this dualistic approach, because we can use what we see “out there” to incite compassion “in here.” In the same way, it is good that we have emotions, because then we have something to work with. With our breath, we can take in aggression and give out peace. We can breathe in pain and breathe out relief. That’s why human birth is so precious: it provides us with the attributes to go on the path.

Scholars and yogis have divided the ego into fifty-one levels of thought patterns and emotions. They’re listed in several categories, including universal patterns such as form and feeling, occasional patterns such as rapture, unwholesome patterns such as recklessness and lack of shame, and wholesome patterns like faith, love, and compassion.

Love and compassion are wholesome because when we experience them—even at an ordinary level—some kind of openness takes place. Those emotions are a fault line of the ego—when we feel them, the ego breaks down a little and we begin to see that our sense of “me” is not airtight. Even though love is an emotion and is often connected with someone we want, or who makes us happy, it contains some quality of relaxing and letting go. Compassion works in the same way, poking holes in the seeming solidity of self and other.

Tonglen is a very potent practice that helps us develop confidence in kindness and compassion. It brings sanity to us and to others because it provides a practical way of working with our mind. For example, if we are calmly practicing tonglen for someone who is close to us, we are not spinning out of control with worry about what could happen to them. Therefore, the meditation is a way to actually bring some sanity to us and the other person.

When we begin to do tonglen practice, the question arises: who or what is sending out, and who is taking in? Through practicing mindfulness, or shamatha, we have established peace. Now, through practicing insight, or vipashyana, we begin to develop wisdom. We begin to realize that we can’t actually find the mind we have tamed. Where exactly is it? Is the mind in the body? Is it in the eyes? Is it in the feelings? Where is the mind that is following the breath? Where is it coming from? Where is it going? Where is its space? We can’t really say that it’s here or it’s there. Nevertheless, there is definitely a process of experiencing being here—experiencing wildness of mind, and experiencing peace. Where is that peace? If I’m meditating, I feel tranquil. Where is that tranquility?

As we progress in our meditation, emptiness becomes more apparent. Emptiness means that there is no inherent existence. Emptiness and egolessness are very similar in that way. Emptiness is empty of our assumptions, and it is full of compassion. We realize that assumptions are the basis of most of our experiences, and we discover that the mind and the world are actually empty of those assumptions. Discovering our selfless nature is freedom.

Sometimes we misunderstand emptiness to mean that nothing exists, which is nihilism. A more accurate perspective is that without emptiness, we cannot have form, and without form we cannot have emptiness. They are inseparable. Exchanging self for other, we realize the self is empty. Then we realize that other is empty, too. That is how true giving and taking can happen. Exchanging oneself for other is the point where relative and absolute truth meet. The whole notion of self and other starts dissolving. If there’s somebody sending, who’s receiving?

As our meditation progresses, we begin to see egolessness—we can’t find any inherent thing. Compassion seems endless and boundless, but where does compassion come from? Where does insight come from? Where is this mind? Actually, we all have the capacity to know, but we can’t completely understand unless we practice meditation. Mind is empty and luminous: this is its nature. The Mahayana teachings say that with the right view, we can utilize certain aspects of our emotions in order to bring out this natural wisdom. As we develop love and compassion through the practice of tonglen, glimmers of wisdom begin to shine through.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, an international network of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning the Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Magic of Enthusiasm

Law of Attraction Coach Kate by Kate Corbin
“Make sure that your life is a rare entertainment! It doesn't take anything drastic. You needn't be gorgeous or wealthy or smart ­ just very Enthusiastic!”
– Bette Midler

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Enthusiasm! When you enter this magical realm, you ride a wave of Life Force Energy that carries you easily and joyfully to the fulfillment of your desires. Want more money? Get excited about it! Ready for your ideal relationship? Feel passionate about it!

What a vibrant, potent force the Vibration of Enthusiasm is! With Enthusiasm and Passion, you broadcast your desires at a zillion watts and the Universe responds with equal intensity.

The word, Enthusiasm, comes from the Greek for “filled with God.” How about that? The etymology confirms that Enthusiasm is the state of being plugged in to Source.

Enthusiasm is that twinkle in your eye, that spring in your step. It’s that fire in the belly that says “I’m alive and I know who I am and what I want.” Enthusiasm is wholeheartedness. With Enthusiasm, you’re aligned, you’re connected, you’re open to receive the juicy abundance of life.

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enthusiasm determines the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, between mediocre and meteoric. In sports, politics, business, the arts – in every field of human endeavor – the ones who make it to the top are invariably fueled by Enthusiasm. What greatness are you ready to achieve with the power of Enthusiasm?

Here’s how to get the Magic of Enthusiasm flowing freely in your life:

* Acknowledge that Enthusiasm is your birthright, which means it’s always there – like the sun on a cloudy day.
* To align with your natural state of Enthusiasm, do what you love. Let your heart steer the ship. What have you always felt drawn to do since you were a kid? What activities make you come alive? What totally absorbs you so you lose track of time? Find things you love to do and give yourself permission to DO THEM.
* Hang around with happy kids, playful pets, vibrant friends and PLAY!
* Stop postponing joy. Life is supposed to be fun, so have some fun today!
* Say YES more than NO.
* Act NOW rather than “some day.”
* Choose your heart over your head.
* Be yourself – who YOU really are, rather than who “they” say you should be.
* Go for your big dreams and refuse to settle for less than the best.
* Show up! As the song says, “when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

A hearty dose of Enthusiasm can mean the difference between an OK life and a life of magnificence. Your vibration of Enthusiasm is a powerful magnet summoning and attracting your highest good, your most heartfelt desires. Re-discover your natural exuberance. Give the Universe a crystal clear, unequivocal statement of your desires by focusing with full-on Enthusiasm. When you engage the Magic of Enthusiasm, you’ll be supported and empowered to Live Your Best Life Now!