War, Peace and the Three Gate Test

A student wants to talk to his master. Just before he reaches his master’s place, there is a misunderstanding between him and his wife. He is very disturbed.

In such a state he goes to his master’s place, kicks open the door, takes out his hat and throws it, takes out his shoes and throws them, full of anger. He then goes to the master and says – ‘‘Oh master! I want peace. I want joy.’’

The master had been observing this student. He tells him, ‘‘First go to the door and apologize to the door for banging it. Go to the hat and apologize to the hat for throwing it. Go to your coat and apologize to the coat for treating it so roughly. And then come. I will talk of peace to you.’’

When the student lovingly apologizes to all those objects and comes back to the master, that very love brings about a transformation in the student. He discovers peace in that state of love. A beautiful story! It shows that, even inanimate objects if handled with live and acceptance, contribute to our inner peace and joy.  

Have you observed people eating? Most often eating is a war. Taking bath is a war. Instead of bathing their precious body with love, it is a ritual accomplished in as few minutes as practically possible. There is no love, no poetry. There is no dance and music. There is only war and noise. All because they have not accepted themselves with love. The moment you start accepting yourself with love, you even handle inert things with love and care, with a sense of total acceptance. You will then find there is so much of poetry, music, aliveness, celebration and dance in your life. 

It is said, a mystic who went to each plant and flower and asked them how they could contribute to humanity, founded the Unani system of medicine. He literally begged every plant out of intuition. Thus, the whole system of Unani came into existence.

With all the stress and pressure in our lives, it is easy to lose our cool at the slightest irritation. While we are rushing home from work at the end of another exhausting day, we scream at the slow driver in front of us who apparently has all the time in the world. While we shop at the grocery store, we get annoyed with the stock clerk who sends us to the wrong aisle when we are in search of the ingredients for tonight’s special dish. And while we are eating our dinner, we yell at the telemarketer who has nerve to interrupt us in an attempt to sell us their latest wares.

The problem with losing our temper on a daily basis is that it becomes a habit. And like most habits, a time arrives when it becomes a second nature. Personal relationships start unraveling, business partnerships begin to fall apart and your credibility decreases. Effective people are consistent and, in many ways, predictable. Keeping your cool in a moment of crisis can save you years of pain and anguish.

Hurtful words unleashed in a single minute of anger have led to many a broken friendship or relationship. Words are like arrows: once released, they are impossible to retrieve. So choose yours with care.  

An excellent way to control temper is ‘‘Three Gate Test’’ as practiced by ancient sages. The ancient sages would only speak if the words they were about to utter passed three gates. At the first gate, they asked themselves, Are these words truthful? If so, the words could pass on to the second gate. At the second gate, the sages asked, Are these words necessary? If so, they would then pass on to the third gate, where they would ask, Are these words kind? If so, then only they leave their lips and be sent out into the world.

Self-Hypnosis shows tremendous promise as a meditation tool

Meditation is considered as one of the best ways to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and increase longevity. While there are several ways to use meditation as a relaxation method, self-hypnosis gives you the additional benefit of temporary behavior modification. Contrary to what you might imagine, self-hypnosis is a very simple procedure that you can learn very quickly and only requires a few days of practice to master. This is what you do in a few easy steps:

Select a comfortable position like sitting, lying down, etc, away from all distractions for at least 10 minutes.

Close your eyes and concentrate on relaxing your entire body from one end to the other.

Start at your feet, feel your toes and feet relaxing, keep repeating rhythmically to yourself the words "relax, relax" as a mantra as you feel a warm tingling sensation in each muscle in your body. Whatever happens just relax, anything you do is a plus, we are not looking for perfection, each time you do this it gets easier. Feel your feet totally relaxed, keep your thoughts focused on relaxing the part of the body youre working on. Experience the calming down effect of letting go of all tension.

Travel up to your legs concentrating in your principal muscles, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hamstrings, torso, abdominals, your chest, back, hands, arms, head and face. Feel pleasure as each part of your body is rid of tension. Undergo the transformation from tightness to looseness.

When you reach your chest pay particular attention toward your breathe, making sure to take deep breathes, inhaling and exhaling to a totally relaxing pace. Let go of all tensions feel the tightness disappearing from your back and shoulders, come into contact with the feeling of relaxation in each part of your body as your travel through it. Include your face muscles and your neck, following a sequence to include the entire body.

After covering all your main body parts independently go around your body a second time now at a faster pace while concentrating in larger portions of your body feeling your entire feet and legs completely relaxed. Feel the gentle warmth traveling your entire body, keep your thoughts in this sensation, still repeating to yourself to relax. As you approach your chest area go through the breathing cycle.

Once you accomplish a state of deep relaxation where your thoughts are away from your usual routine and into your body you may select to give yourself a suggestion at this point. You are in a very susceptible state, you may repeat to yourself: I will come out of my self-hypnotic state full of energy ready to do my project X with enthusiasm. Or you may say to yourself: whenever I experience anger I will feel love and trust for myself or others and I will react with compassion. I will have a strong desire to forgive myself and others. Repeat these or other suggestions several times during your hypnotic condition. Do not attempt to make multiple suggestions in the same session.

Try it now, do it today, you will see instant results; just dont expect miracles, only improvements. Develop a routine to meditate once or twice a day. Remember, the more you do it the easier it becomes. In a few weeks you will be able to relax under the worst types of conditions and very quickly. Meditation as part of a strategy to take care of your emotional health and well-being can add decades to your life and will greatly improve your ability to relax and concentrate. Additionally, self-hypnosis in particular will take advantage of the power of suggestion in practically any area of your life where you can use a little help.

What Makes You Think The Real World Is Real? Waking Up In Dreamless Sleep!

In this day and age, when everything is fast-paced and high-pressure, a little peace and quiet goes a long way towards restoring mental and spiritual balance. Where does this peace and tranquility emerge from? Some basic biological (if not spiritual) truths are that we create our own realities, be they emotional, physical, financial, social or otherwise.  All our realities originate in the Mind.

Doctors and scientists probing the regions of the brain found out that for the most part the activity detected was composed of many different frequencies of rhythmic and non-rhythmic waves or pulsations.  These pulsations were broken down into individual categories for easier study and for their particular properties.  These categories are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta waves.  Alpha waves were first recorded by Dr. Hans Berger, who published his recordings in 1929.

The most widely known and publicized is the Alpha wave which is prominent during relaxation mostly with eyes closed, day dreaming and self-introspection.  Beta waves are prominent during the active awareness state that we experience from day to day at work and at play.  The Theta wave is associated with light sleep, REM dreams and hallucinations.  The Delta wave is prominent only during dreamless sleep and coma where the outward appearance is dead to the world. 

The sages of the Upanishads showed a unique preoccupation with the different states of consciousness.  They observed dreams and the state of dreamless sleep and asked what is known in each, and what faculty could be said to be the knower.  What exactly is the difference between a dream and a waking experience?  What happens to the sense of ”I” in dreamless sleep?  In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, there is a long exposition on the states of the mind; the sages who explored called them waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

They concluded that these were not merely states of mind that a person slips in and out of several times during the day, but each state represented a layer of awareness at different depths of the conscious, sub-conscious and the unconscious mind.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad observes "In that dream world, there are no chariots, no animals to draw them, no roads to ride on, but one makes chariots and animals and roads oneself from the impressions of past experience."

When we dream, we enter another world, another reality.  As long as you are dreaming, your experience seems real.  When you wake up, you realise it was just a dream.  Now, that you are awake, you know you are not dreaming and that what you are now experiencing is real.  What makes you think it is real?

A leap of insight from the Upanishads "Everyone experiences this, but no one knows the experiencer."  It cannot be the body which is the experiencer, for in a dream, it detaches itself from the body and the senses, and creates its own experiences - experiences which are as real as those of the waking state.  One even goes through the entire gamut of emotions in a dream.  Dreaming and waking are made up of the same stuff and as far as the central nervous system is concerned, both are real.

Says Havelock Ellis, "Dreams are real as long as they last.  Can we say more of life?" Dr. John Bigelow, a famous research authority on sleep says that the main reason we sleep is because "the nobler part of the soul is united by abstraction to our higher nature and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the Gods."

The sages of the Upanishads set themselves the task of discovering a level of reality above this world of constantly changing sensory impressions.  They found out that in the dreamless state, the Self detaches itself from both the body and the mind.  It is this Self that is the experiencer.  Contemporary science says that it is in this state that the autonomic nervous system is repaired.  This state of dreamless sleep is the deepest, most universal layer of our consciousness or, if you, wish our unconscious.  The Upanishads say "Wake up in this state and you will be who you truly are, free from the conditioning of the body and mind, free from the sensory perceptions, free from bondage and misery; in a world which is not bounded by the limitations of time, space and causation."

How does one achieve this?  By meditation.  Meditate then and progress on a path which is by no means easy.  To quote the Katha Upanishad "Sharp like a razor's edge, the sages say, is the path to Reality, difficult to traverse."  This ascent is so fraught with challenges that it is certainly not for the meek.  But for those who dare to accept this challenge, can there ever be a greater one?  This would be the ultimate discovery, to discover who we are, what the universe is, and what is the significance of the brief drams of life and death.

The Katha Upanishad further states "The Ultimate Reality cannot be known through speech or through eyes.  Who but the one who says 'it is' can know it?"  Neither logic nor words nor any of the senses would help in the ultimate journey.  Only silence, deep everlasting silence, from the depths of the heart will get us there.  Meditation is the gate that opens that door to us.  Cermonials create the attitude in the mind, but that attitude in always resident in the soul.  People are doing it all the time, but doing it unknowingly.  Do it knowingly; that is the power of meditation.

The Maitrayana Upanishad puts it thus "When, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point.  The mind must be restrained in the heart till it comes to an end; that is knowledge; that is liberty; all the rest are extensions of the ties which bind us to this life."

To quote Van Ruysbroeck "We contemplate what we are and we are what we contemplate.  Contemplation of the Super-essential passes into communion.  Words cannot tell it, silence has no power to hold it within its bound, intelligence, reason, the creature itself, all are transcended.  This simple possession by God is life eternal enjoyed in fathomless abyss.  It is here, beyond reason, that we await the peace of the Divine changelessness."

Note again that as far as the Central Nervous System is concerned, Dreaming and Waking are made up of the same stuff and both are real.  It is only in the dreamless state therefore, that the Self becomes the experiencer and the experiencer is pure awareness.  Almost each one of us is lost for most part of our life in an internal space of constant thinking, memory and visualizing / dreaming.  When this imagined space and dream space both go away, what is left is the Void.  The Void is absent of any image or thought and there can only be Formless Oneness, yet we function as a human being.  The experience is one of absolute quiet, absolute emptiness, total peace.

Yet the sages of the past and most other spiritual thinkers were correct that one can never experience any of this except in the human form.  The body it is which has the states of consciousness as part of its imagined existence in this world.  So this form is necessary to experience the dreamless state and yet be alive. 

We already know that the normal waking state is not useful for the spiritual seeker, except for intellectual deliberations.  So that leaves us with the sleep state.  Every night, we pass through four stages of sleep.  Each stage takes approximately 90 minutes to a couple of hours so sleeping for six to eight hours on an average marks one full sleep cycle. 

Stage 1 is a light sleep where you can be easily woken up.  It marks a loss of self-awareness and most sensory attachment to the physical world.  The brainwave frequencies descend from Alpha through Theta.  Stage 2 is where your physical body loses nearly all muscle tone but although the brainwaves have slowed further, they show brief spikes of higher brainwave activity.  In Stage 3, the sleeper is non-responsive to the environment and most stimuli cause no reaction.  It is a dreamless stage of sleep but surprisingly one where sleepwalking (or somnabulism) is most likely to occur.  Stage 4 is the REM stage, which marks the onset of dreaming.  Contrarily, although the brain waves are more active, the sleeper is harder to awaken.  It has been said that REM deprivation impairs our ability to learn complex tasks and form long term memories.

So it is obvious that the aim of meditation as a tool should be to access a state similar to Stage 3 of sleep.  The REM state is equivalent to dreaming and is as useless as the waking state for spiritual adventures.  The most common brain waves whilst practising meditation are alpha waves relating to Stage 1 of sleep.  They calm the autonomic nervous system by allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to dominate the sympathetic nervous system.  This lower blood pressure and the heart rate and the amount of stress hormones in the body apart from calming the mind. 

For regular meditators who attain alpha and theta brainwaves in meditation, they can utilize it to overcome your limitations and challenges, triumph over your unwanted habits and negative thought patterns, and enrich certain aspects of their life.  In practical terms, theta brainwaves in meditation also invoke a deep sense of relaxation and also encourage creativity and make problem solving and memorization easier. Theta waves also present themselves for most people when they do any task ”automatically”, i.e. driving, washing clothes, etc. (hypnotic state).

Finally, delta brain waves in meditation are the slowest of all. Everyone experiences delta waves in deep sleep, but delta brain waves in meditation are said to help experienced practitioners access the unconscious mind.  This then is the state of dreamless sleep, where one can use techniques to access the unconscious mind.  Wake up in Dreamless Sleep!

Rajesh Seshadri is the founder/creator of Nirmiti Nidra, evolved after a lengthy period of intermittent practice and experimentation with various techniques and an endeavor to combine the easiest and the best and derive maximum advantage. Unparalleled in its approach, simplicity and effectiveness, the basic Nirmiti Nidra program is offered free of cost to schools, institutions, communities and organizations.

Over the past two decades, he has continued to don multiple hats including a corporate professional who has risen to the highest levels, trainer, facilitator, motivator, educator, speaker, hypnotist, therapist and life coach. In addition to multiple Master's degrees in diverse fields and being a fellow member of the ICAI, he is a certified hypnotherapist, advanced LOA practitioner, master practitioner in NLP and a Silva Ultra graduate. Having been trained by some of the best national and international trainers on various professional and self-development modalities, he is also a voracious reader and an enthusiastic practitioner. He is also a firm believer in alternate therapies and spiritual healing. He loves working with and for people both professionally and personally and derives satisfaction from the smallest improvement that he can help people bring into their own lives.

To know more visit http://www.rajeshseshadri.com or write to nirmiti.nidra@gmail.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Rajesh_Seshadri

Slow Down Therapy

1. Slow down; God is still in heaven. You are not responsible for doing it all yourself, right now.

 2. Remember a happy, peaceful time in your past. Rest there. Each moment has richness that takes a lifetime to savor.

 3. Set your own pace. When someone is pushing you, it's OK to tell them they're pushing.

 4. Take nothing for granted: watch water flow, the corn grow, the leaves blow, your neighbor mow.

 5. Taste your food. God gives it to delight as well as to nourish.

 6. Notice the sun and the moon as they rise and set. They are remarkable for their steady pattern of movement, not their speed.

 7. Quit planning how you're going to use what you know, learn, or possess. God's gifts just are; be grateful and their purpose will be clear.

 8. When you talk with someone, don't think about what you'll say next. Thoughts will spring up naturally if you let them.

 9. Talk and play with children. It will bring out the unhurried little person inside you.

 10. Create a place in your home...at your work...in your heart...where you can go for quiet and recollection. You deserve it.

 11. Allow yourself time to be lazy and unproductive. Rest isn't a luxury; it's a necessity. 

 12. Listen to the wind blow. It carries a message of yesterday and tomorrow-and now. NOW counts.

 13. Rest on your laurels. They bring comfort whatever their size, age, or condition.

 14. Talk slower. Talk less. Don't talk. Communication isn't measured by words.

 15. Give yourself permission to be late sometimes. Life is for living, not scheduling.

 16. Listen to the song of a bird; the complete song. Music and nature are gifts, but only if you are willing to receive them.

 17. Take time just to think. Action is good and necessary, but it's fruitful only if we muse, ponder, and mull.

 18. Make time for play - the things you like to do. Whatever your age, your inner child needs re-creation.

 19. Watch and listen to the night sky. It speaks.

 20. Listen to the words you speak, especially in prayer.

 21. Learn to stand back and let others take their turn as leaders.There will always be new opportunities for you to step out in front again.

 22. Divide big jobs into little jobs. If God took six days to create the universe, can you hope to do any better?

 23. When you find yourself rushing and anxious, stop. Ask yourself "WHY?" you are rushing and anxious. The reasons may improve your self-understanding.

 24. Take time to read the Bible. Thoughtful reading is enriching reading.

 25. Direct your life with purposeful choices, not with speed and efficiency. The best musician is one who plays with expression and meaning, not the one who finishes first.

 26. Take a day off alone; make a retreat. You can learn from monks and hermits without becoming one.

 27. Pet a furry friend. You will give and get the gift of now.

 28. Work with your hands. It frees the mind.

 29. Take time to wonder. Without wonder, life is merely existence.

 30. Sit in the dark. It will teach you to see and hear, taste and smell.

 31. Once in a while, turn down the lights, the volume, the throttle, the invitations. Less really can be more.

 32. Let go. Nothing is usually the hardest thing to do - but often it is the best.

 33. Take a walk-but don't go anywhere. If you walk just to get somewhere, you sacrifice the walking.

 34. Count your friends. If you have one, you are lucky. If you have more, you are blessed. Bless them in return.

 35. Count your blessings - one at a time and slowly.

The Parrot That Wouldn't Talk

There is an old story about a fellow who lived alone and went to a pet store to buy a parrot.

He thought the bird might fill some of his lonely hours. The very next day, however, he came back to complain, "That bird doesn't talk."

 The store owner asked if he had a mirror in its cage, and the man said he didn't. "Oh, parrots love mirrors," he explained. "When he sees his reflection in the mirror, he'll just start talking away." So he sold him a birdcage mirror.

 The bird owner was back the next day to gripe that his parrot still hadn't said a word. "That's very peculiar," allowed the pet expert. "How about a swing? Birds really love these little swings, and a happy parrot is a talkative parrot." So the man bought a swing, took it home, and installed it in the cage.

 But he was back the next day with the same story. "Does he have a ladder to climb?" the salesman asked. "That just has to be the problem. Once he has a ladder, he'll probably talk your ear off!" So the fellow bought a ladder.

 The man was back at the pet store when it opened the next day. From the look on his face, the owner knew something was wrong. "Didn't your parrot like the ladder?" he asked. His repeat customer looked up and said, "The parrot died."

"I'm so sorry," the stunned businessman said. "Did he ever say anything?"

"Well, yes. He finally talked just before he died. In a weak little voice, he asked me, "Don't they sell any bird seed at that pet store?'"

 Some of us have mistakenly thought that happiness consists of lining our cages with toys, gadgets, and other stuff. Excessive consumption has become the hallmark of our life. "Whoever has the most toys wins" seems to be the likely candidate to be the bumper sticker for an entire culture. But is it so?

  There is a spiritual hunger in the human heart that can't be satisfied by seeing one's own image reflected back in vanity mirrors, playing with our grown-up toys, or climbing the corporate ladder. Our hearts need real nourishment.The love of family and friends, relationships over the pursuit of more things, personal integrity, a secure connection to the Higher Self -- these are the things that feed the soul.

Have you chosen a life course that leads to a destination that matters?

The Strange Secret

George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them."

Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.

Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry - his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.

How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.

Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.

We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.

Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand- one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds-one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.

As it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

Remember the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants - one corn, one poison.

The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant must return to us.

You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.

An excerpt from
The Strangest Secret
by Earl Nightingale

Be a Wise Charioteer

The charioteer has been shown on the chariot, holding the reins of the 5 horses. The horses are mischievous and adventurous they will lead the chariot and the charioteer astray if left to their own devices.

They are the greatest companions for the charioteer and allow him to move forward at great speed. However, if these same companions are distracted and influenced by enemy tactics, then the charioteer is at risk of also being deluded into making the wrong move and becoming trapped.

I the soul am the charioteer sitting in this body. The five horses represent the 5 senses: to hear, to see, to taste, to smell and to touch. These are my great companions. They are a part of the body, the chariot; they are separate from the charioteer, the soul.
However the senses can be pulled and influenced in all directions. The job of the charioteer is to direct them and not be influenced himself. To use them but not to become enslaved to them and the information they supply.

With these under full control the charioteer is able to withstand all challenges that come in his path and move with great wisdom.

Be a wise charioteer.

Who is the Master and Who is the Slave?

A Guru was walking through the market place with his disciples. They saw a man dragging a cow by a rope.

The Guru told the man to wait and asked his disciples to surround them.

“I am going to teach you something” and continued... “Tell me who is bound to whom? Is the cow bound to this man or the man is bound to the cow?

The disciples said without hesitation “Of course the cow is bound to the man! The man is the master. He is holding the rope. The cow has to follow him wherever he goes. The man is the master and the cow is the slave.”

“Now watch this”, said Sankara and took a pair of scissors from his bag and cut the rope. The cow ran away from the master and the man ran after his cow. “Look, what is happening”, said the Guru, “Do you see who the Master is? The cow is not at all interested in this man. The cow in fact, is trying to escape from this man.” This is the case with our MIND.

Like the cow, all the non-sense that we carry inside is not interested in us. WE are interested in IT, we are keeping it together somehow or the other. We are going crazy trying to keep it all together under our control. The moment we lose interest in all the garbage filled in our head, and the moment we understand the futility of it, it will start to disappear. Like the cow, it will escape and disappear.” We can allow disappearing of all the unwanted things from our mind and feel relaxed.

All It Takes is Ten Minutes

When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions).

How Schools Kill Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Time to take time out : Getting your brain rebooted

Albert Einstein stated that “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” When we forget that gift, we cannot expect the way we treat others – or ourselves – to be as constructive a force as it should.

We shoulder unreasonable deadlines, put in 14-hour days, and routinely skip lunch. We can’t sleep. Our necks hurt, our eyes hurt, our hands hurt, our shoulders hurt. We run out of physical, intellectual, and emotional energy. As glorious as our technology is, it has become a leash that makes it impossible to separate what we do from who we are.

Yet it need not be so.

Meditation is like flossing our teeth. We all know it’s good for us and that we should floss daily. Usually, though, we tell ourselves we just do not have time for it. And what, if anything, does meditation have to do with interpersonal skills and manners, much less business success?

The goal is to live in the moment, which is the only reality we know. That means clearing our heads of the noise, confusion, and clutter that sends us back ruminating over our past or into the fantasy that is the future.

Athletes call it visualization, which is simply a positive mental rehearsal of what they are about to do. Whatever you wish to call it, meditation has as much to do with effective human performance as Shakespeare has to do with literature.

In his classic book “The Relaxation Response”, Dr. Herbert Benson proved conclusively that meditation lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels. Recent studies also found that meditation relieves insomnia, a plague of our times.

Simple as breathing

In his Harvard Business Review article, “You’re Working Too Hard,” Dr. Benson argues that by getting our minds off whatever problems we are trying to solve, we reboot our brains and ultimately arrive at longer-lasting solutions more easily.

That really is as simple as breathing. Take deep, relaxing breaths: inhale deeply through your nose, letting your abdomen expand like a balloon, thus allowing more space in your chest for inspired air; as you exhale slowly through your nose or mouth, let your abdomen deflate. You don’t have to exaggerate either the inhalation or the exhalation; your body knows what to do.

Your mind will not stay blank. Rather than fighting your thoughts, simply do not follow them. Instead, let thoughts come and go, and keep returning to your breath. The goal here is to connect with your intuition, the sacred gift, as Einstein calls it, and not tether yourself to the rational mind, the faithful servant.

Resetting ourselves in a positive position merely requires closing our eyes, shutting out external stimuli, and breathing. Meditation evokes a relaxed focus, not necessarily spiritually induced.

Meditation is merely the practice of being quiet, turning your attention inward, and focusing your mind. Once we connect with our intuitive mind, we then are able to put our thoughts to work making better choices that result in more effective behaviour.

So, you might wonder, what is our time investment here? It only takes a moment. When I was in Saudi Arabia, one very accomplished scientist, on extreme overload from professional and family demands, allowed me to test the argument. We set our smartphone timers for one minute. We closed our eyes and did some belly breathing. When the alarm rang, she was refreshed and better equipped to handle the immediate challenges ahead.

I ask you, can there be a greater Return On Investment for a single moment spent getting our brain rebooted?

Perhaps marshaling our personal technology is not quite the same as heeding the haunting call to prayer. Yet, for me at least, pausing thus is just as profound.

Try it.

(Mary M. Mitchell has written several books on the subject of etiquette, now in 11 languages, most recently “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Modern Manners Fast Track” and “Woofs to the Wise”. She is the founder of executive training consultancy The Mitchell Organization (www.themitchellorganization.com)

Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140223/sunday-times-2/time-to-take-time-out-86505.html

Keep your brain ticking

Senior Consultant Neurologist Dr. J.B. Peiris suggests some simple ways to keep your mental faculties healthy

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me how best to remember names. Having faced the problem myself (possibly, a familial trait) I could not think of a suitable answer immediately. So, I did some thinking, reading and surfing and here are some interesting facts, myths and food for thought.

By the time you are 65 years, your brain isn't what it used to be- you will start to notice the signs: you forget people's names and you cannot remember where you left your keys or mobile phone. Clearly not everyone ages in the same way

Reaction time is slower and it takes us longer to learn new information. Sometimes it takes longer to retrieve information, resulting in that tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon — where you almost have that word or that thought. That's typical of the middle-age brain.

There is a good reason why our memories start to let us down. At this stage of life we are steadily losing brain cells in critical areas such as the hippocampus - the area where memories are processed. This is not too much of a problem at first; even in old age the brain is flexible enough to compensate. At some point though, losses start to make themselves felt. It's true that by midlife our brains can show some fraying. Brain processing speed slows down. Faced with new information, we often cannot master it as quickly as our younger peers. And there's little question that our short-term memories suffer.

There are, however, some brain functions which improve with age. We actually grow smarter in key areas in middle age which, with longer life spans, now stretches from our mid 40s to our mid to late 60s. In areas as diverse as vocabulary and inductive reasoning, our brains function better than they did in our 20s. As we age, we more easily get the "gist" of arguments. Even our judgment of others improves. Often, we simply "know'' if someone — or some idea — is to be trusted. We also get better at knowing what to ignore and when to hold our tongues.

Fresh thinking about the brain
An old myth in neuroscience is that once a brain cell dies off you can't replace it. But many studies have now shown, that there is, in fact, brain cell growth throughout life. It continues to develop, and even continues to grow new brain cells. So the brain can continue to learn throughout the middle age years and beyond.

Plasticity of the brain
The brain can be changed or moulded to suit the needs – the concept of "Plasticity" which relates to changes by adding or removing connections, or adding cells. Research has shown that in fact the brain never stops changing through learning.

In a recent study referred to as "your brain on Google," healthy, middle-aged volunteers, all novices on the computer, were taught how to do a Google search. They were told then to practise doing online searches for an hour a day, for seven days. After the week's practice, the volunteers came back into the lab and had their brains scanned while doing a Google search. The scans revealed significant increases in brain activity in the areas that control memory and decision-making.

The area of the brain that showed the increases was the frontal lobe, the thinking brain, especially in areas that control decision making and working memory. With practice, a middle-age brain can very quickly alter its neuron-circuitry; can strengthen the neuron circuits that control short-term memory and decision making.

It is also known that other areas of the brain also increase in size with usage. For example, the finger area in the motor cortex in Braille readers and professional string instrument players is more extensive than in a normal individual.

The ability of the brain to change with learning is what is known as Neuro-plasticity.

Remembering names and numbers
Let me now try to answer the question I posed at the beginning – how to remember names and numbers.

Repeat it 7 seconds later
Train your mind frequently by repeating to yourself anything you need to remember as quickly as you learn it. This is very useful especially when remembering phone numbers and dates. Repetition is a simple system on how to improve memory power, but it works even for long term memory. Recall it after 7 seconds to store it in memory.

Write it down
Let the paper remember for you. The point is to have use of the information later, and if that's more easily done by way of an "external memory device" like pen and paper, why not take advantage of these tools? Also, writing things down is another way to more strongly "fix" something in our minds.

Imagine the future use
If you think about how you will use information, you're more likely to remember it. For example if after learning a new algorithm in a math class you imagine using it during a test, you'll probably remember it better - particularly when taking a test.

How to improve ‘brain fitness’
Consider the brain a muscle. Variety and curiosity is the basis. When anything you do becomes second nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it's time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain.

Brain aerobics
What exactly constitutes a brain aerobic exercise? To qualify as a brain aerobic exercise, the activity
  • Needs to engage your attention
  • Must involve two or more of your senses
  • Must break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way
Play games
Sudoku, crosswords playing chess or bridge, dancing regularly and electronic games can all improve your brain's speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You'll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day -- spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.

Daily meditation is perhaps the single greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain fitness.

Turn off your television
Television can stand in the way of relationships, life and more. Turn off your TV and spend more time living and exercising your mind and body.

Exercise your body to exercise your brain
Physical exercise is great brain exercise too. By moving your body, your brain has to learn new muscle skills, estimate distance and practise balance. Choose a variety of exercises to challenge your brain.

Read something different
Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books.

Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Learning a new language or becoming computer literate is equally good. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an airplane out of toothpicks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.

Make simple changes
We love our routines. We have hobbies and pastimes that we could do for hours on end. To really help your brain stay young, challenge it. Change routes to your destinations, use your opposite hand to open doors, and eat dessert, shave, and brush teeth, texting, using the computer mouse. Writing with the other hand is a useful way of using the non dominant hemisphere to do a component associated with speech – usually located in the dominant hemisphere.

The brain is an organ like no other. You can ‘exercise’ it in many different ways and this is the best way to make the best use of it. Use it or lose it, is true of the brain; importantly you can use it in many different ways.

Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100822/Plus/plus_13.html

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