Stone of the Day: Serpentine

Serpentine is a grounding stone that helps in meditation and spiritual exploration. Since refines the chakras, and stimulates the crown chakra opens you natculne skills and helps you to understand the spiritual basis of life. This stone opens up new avenues of kundalini energy and its growth. Encourages the re-acquisition of wisdom and brings back memories of previous lives.

Stone of the Day: Magnesite

Magnesite brings deep peace meditation and relaxation. When put on the third eye, this stone enhances visualization and imagery. Opens the heart chakra and stimulates genuine love, including love of self, which is essential to be able to receive love from others.

Magnesite can be a very useful application of unconditional love in situations where relationships with others difficult, because of their behavior or addiction.

Stone of the Day: Danburite

Danburit is a highly spiritual stone that carries a very pure vibration, and operates at the heart energy. Activates the intellect and higher consciousness, connecting with the angelic realm. His brilliance comes from cosmic light and danburit sometimes is with the Buddha inside the crystal formation, which attracts enlightenment and spiritual light. Facilitates the road ahead.

Wearing danburite provides a connection with calmness and eternal wisdom.

When used in meditation takes you to high levels of awareness and access to internal leadership.

The Happiness Hypothesis

The earth is comprised of right around 7 billion people. We all come from different backgrounds whether they are racial, religious, socio-economic; the list goes on. The one common denominator between all of us is this: we want to be happy.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud was once asked what the purpose of life is. I’m paraphrasing here but he said something along the lines of “As to the question of the purpose to life I cannot give you a definitive answer, but what I can do is take a look at the behavior of humans to try to determine what motivates them.” What he came up with is that human beings constantly strive to move towards more intense states of pleasure and to move away from pain. There is not a human being who doesn’t fit this description in my opinion. Regardless of background I can assume that all of us are searching for happiness. The main problem, however, is that most of us are using the wrong mechanisms to find happiness, as is apparent everywhere you go. There are many people who, if they were being truthful with you, feel as if life isn’t panning out the way that it should for them. Why are so many of us missing that certain “something” in our lives? Why do we grow up to be someone completely unrecognizable to the person we thought we would grow up to be when we were younger?

I’ve read and heard the concept that at the age of 14 is when we really had a clear idea of who we wanted to be. Our brains were operating at a high cognitive level and our minds were unimpeded by the stress most of us feel as adults. According to this idea, if you think back to what you wanted to be at the age of 14, that’s what your “destiny” truly is. The validity of this isn’t proven but it’s interesting to ponder. What did you want to be at the age of 14? You were probably just beginning to really learn about the different types of careers out there and you probably envisioned your self to be quite the success. Lets look at your life now; Are you the person you thought you would end up to be? Does your body match up to the images you had of yourself as a teenager? How about your bank account?

The good news is, as long as your alive there’s an opportunity to change things. It may sound cliché but I truly believe you are never stuck in a situation unless you say you are. I think the first thing to do is to figure out whether or not you are going in the right direction. You can be climbing up the ladder, but if it’s leaning against the wrong wall then it will do you no good. Yes, you can even be filthy rich and be miserable. The idea of climbing up the economic ladder to just to climb it is the main reason I think a lot of people get into trouble. Doing something you don’t like just for money to spend in your free time is an equation that leads to unhappiness. I will continue to stress that in one way or another in everything I write.

The book that inspired me to write this article is called “The Happiness Hypothesis” and was written by positive psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt. This book has some amazing insights into what makes us happy and provided me with some ideas that I have found helpful in my own life and I am going to share them with you now so that they will hopefully be beneficial to you.

The main theme of the book is that the main reason that most of us are unhappy comes from the idea that we have one unified brain. Stay with me here. Our problem is that we see everything good or bad in our lives as all coming from the same source, and Dr. Haidt says that this is not true. What he describes is a battle between what I will just refer to as “old brain” and the “new brain”. The old brain is made up of the urges and drives that are rooted in our genetics from past generations. The new brain is the modern day rational thinking brain that uses logic to solve problems. Let me use an example to illustrate:

We all know logically that eating candy and junk food is bad for us, yet for some reason there are times where we cant help but to succumb to the temptation of snacking. According to this logic, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it because it’s technically not your fault. Your ancient ancestors lived in a time where food was very scarce, and the taste buds of your ancestors were made to crave sweet and salty foods, which were very rare at the time. The people who were able to eat these types of foods and store up as much fat as they could were the ones that survived, and these genes passed down from generation to generation. In a modern world these genetic frameworks are no longer necessary, but we still have them, hence why you eat M & M’s when you know darn well you shouldn’t. Here is a second example that I know many of us can relate to:

It seems that for many of us it is very difficult to save money. I read somewhere that the typical American saves around 2-3 dollars out of every $100 they make. Logically we know that saving money is the right thing to do, but the old brain takes over our spending habits. The old brain communicates signals from our ancestors that says, “ You could die tomorrow! Life is Short!” Our old brain doesn’t see the reason to save anything because today could be our last.

The last example that I will talk about deals with the cognitive bias that humans have towards negativity. Our brains are wired to find the negative in everything. Our ancestors used this as a survival mechanism. Lets say your great, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandfather was walking through the woods. He could be living a perfectly happy life in all aspects. Lets also say that he hears a rustle in the bushes that could possibly be a predatory animal. Even though 99 percent of his life was going perfectly well, if he ignored that 1 percent of negativity and ignored the rustle in the bushes, the result could be fatal.

So what are the tools that we can use to overcome our archaic brain? Dr. Haidt suggests three things:

  • Meditation – Dr. Haidt claims that there is sufficient scientific research that supports the benefits of meditation. I myself like to meditate at least once a day and I have found it very helpful. Eastern ideas have become more commonplace in Western culture and many people are converting to a more holistic approach to wellness. I suggest trying it if you haven’t, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, once a week, once a month, it works. I have seen a major shift in my entire attitude towards life and I have been meditating for about 3 months.
  • Cognitive therapy – Cognitive therapy is basically the process of logically talking through some of the feelings we have that may be irrational. I have no background in this but from what I gathered the basic premise is to ask logical questions that lead to a realization of what’s really going on. If you are trying to lose weight but feel that its just impossible, a cognitive therapist may ask questions like “Have other people in your position been able to lose weight?” “Is it really impossible to lose weight?” This process is supposed to bring a stabilizing effect to your emotional states. I’m going to try it on myself.
  • Prozac – I wouldn’t suggest taking pills unless you have first talked to a doctor, but according to Haidt, it literally can make you happy.

The book is very extensive and talks about a myriad of different subjects so I wont delve into all of them. I definitely think you should take the time to read the entire book; But the last two things I am going to talk about, that I felt were relevant to many of us, are work and love. I personally believe that if you get these two wrong, you are going to be in a great deal of pain in life in the long run. Lets first talk about work.

Human beings have an inner drive to achieve, and finding work that is aligned with our strengths is one way that can lead to a happy life. Many of us think we know what we are good at, and usually we are wrong. I would suggest taking a Myers-Briggs personality test, or taking the Strengths Finder 2.0 test created by the Gallup research company. We live in a society that promotes trying to fix our weaknesses in order to be successful, and I think it’s the wrong approach. I believe the best way to maximize your life is to build on the talents you already innately have and turn them into strengths, and then nurture these strengths into a flourishing career and lifestyle. The goal is to achieve what is called a “flow state”. A flow state is where you are engaged in something so challenging that it takes every part of your energy to accomplish, therefore making you “lose yourself” in the process. Another way this has been described as being in the zone. You have to find something that you look forward to doing everyday, something that makes you spring up out of bed. All too often I see the opposite. In some of my past articles it may seem like I am saying to completely abandon what you are doing completely to find your route to success. While sometimes I do believe that is necessary, it doesn’t always have to happen that way. Maybe the answer is moving to a different department that is more aligned with your talents. I do believe that going to a job everyday that you hate, or even dislike, is a disastrous situation that you need to remove yourself from as soon as possible. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. Next lets talk about love.

From my readings of various authors who study happiness I’ve gathered this thought. No matter what you do in life, if you get the social aspect of it wrong, you’re toast. Finding the right partner, the right circle of friends, and strengthening family ties is a necessity to living a happy life. I think that’s something most of us would be able to agree on. The book says that we should be searching for what is called “companionate love”. Companionate love is built more on friendship as opposed to lust and passion. An interesting thought from the book is that Dr. Haidt claims that a passionate, romantic type of love may not always translate into companionate love. Hollywood and the media portray the passionate type of love as the one we should strive for, and the book claims that this may not be the correct route. It suggests that the foundation of a solid relationship and marriage is built on companionate love and flourishes with moments of passion and romance. I think this may hold true. The fires of passion will eventually burn away and you will be left with someone that you are supposed to be with for the rest of your life. It would probably be in your best interest to marry someone who has grown with you as a friend over a long period of time.

Wrapping things up, I am going to leave you with the idea that stood out most to me in this book. The idea is that “happiness comes from between”. What the author means by this is that happiness is not a goal you reach but something that results in the incremental progress one makes in their life. It’s the journey that matters more that the finish line. Focus on directional momentum, and make sure that your direction is accurate. Lets say you want to make more money; Don’t focus on making x amount of dollars by a certain time; Focus on having more money next year than you did the last. If you want to lose weight, focus on the process and not the end result. I’ve experienced this myself. Knowing that you have put the work in and watching your body change over time is a great feeling. No one thing is going to bring you happiness. Happiness is going to come from a multitude of factors that are integrated together to build a happy life. I refer back to what I call the four pillars of the good life: Wealth, Health, Love, And Fulfillment. Work day in and day out in simply being a better person than you were yesterday. Learn new things and go to bed a little wiser than when you woke up. Continue to strive and remember that it’s the striving that brings you happiness and not the end goal. Hopefully this was of some benefit to you and I was able to share some ideas that will help you find the good life.

IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH DIFFICULT EMOTIONS, VISUALIZE THIS…

Pain, insecurity, fear, anxiety, anger are swirling around inside your head like black smoke, pungent and menacing.

Close your eyes. Take a slow, deep breath in. As you do, imagine that you’re breathing in the cold, clear mist of a gentle waterfall. The mist enters your nostrils and flows into head space, where it begins to push out the black smoke, to your surprise.

Now, exhale slowly. As you do, imagine the black smoke escaping from your nose and mouth, as if it’s a thread. Every time you inhale, you take in the stream of clear, refreshing mist, and when you exhale, black smoke exits your body.

Continue this deep breathing and visualization until all of the smoke has vanished. Open your eyes. Doesn’t the world look different without all the smog?

 

Corporations’ Newest Productivity Hack: Meditation

Since I started meditating two years ago, my practice has been shamefully sporadic. When I do manage to stop what I’m doing and sit down, device-free, I find following my breath to be a relief from—and a contrast to—what happens at work. But as David Gelles observes in his new book, that contrast is dissolving, perhaps for the better.

In Mindful Work, Gelles, a business reporter for The New York Times, catalogs the nascent trend of establishing employee well-being programs that promote mindfulness, an activity that is perhaps best described as doing nothing. More precisely, mindfulness means drawing one’s attention to the sensations of the present moment, and noting, without frustration or judgment, any mental wanderings that get in the way. It can be done anywhere—at your desk, on the subway platform—and at any time. Decades of research suggest that setting aside time for mindfulness can improve concentration and reduce stress.

Gelles first reported on the rise of corporate mindfulness programs in 2012 for The Financial Times, when he described a rare but promising initiative at General Mills. In the years since, similar programs have popped up at Ford, Google, Target, Adobe—and even Goldman Sachs and Davos. This adoption has been rapid, perhaps due to its potential to help the bottom line: Aetna estimates that since instituting its mindfulness program, it has saved about $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs, and gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity. Mindful employees, the thinking goes, are healthier and more focused.

Long-term meditation tied to less brain loss

Meditation over many years is tied to smaller age-related decreases in brain volume, according to a new study.

People who reported meditating for an average of 20 years had higher brain volumes than the average person, researchers report in Frontiers in Psychology.

While it’s known that the volume of a brain’s gray matter decreases as a person ages, the study’s senior author told Reuters Health that the team of researchers expected to see more gray matter in certain regions of the brain among long-term meditators.

“But we see that this effect is really widespread throughout the brain,” said Dr. Florian Kurth, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles Brain Mapping Center.

Kurth and his colleagues write that they can’t say meditation caused its practitioners to lose less brain volume, however. Other habits of long-term meditators may also influence brain volume.

Nearly 18 million adults and 1 million children practiced meditation in the U.S. in 2012, according to a survey on complementary medicine from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though meditative techniques have roots in Eastern religious and spiritual traditions, Americans today often meditate outside of religious settings, according to the survey.

Prior studies found that meditation can improve attention, memory, verbal fluency, executive function and creativity, Kurth and his colleagues write.

For the new study, the researchers compared the brain scans of 50 long-term meditators to those of 50 men and women from the general population. The participants ranged in age from 24 to 77 years. The meditators reported being involved in the practice for four to 46 years.

Overall, the volume of gray matter shown on the brain scans decreased as the age of the participants increased. But the meditators’ brains appeared better preserved than average people of the same age.

Moreover, the researchers were surprised to find less age-related gray matter loss throughout the brains of meditators.

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Julianna Raye, who began meditating 20 years ago, was amazed at what she saw when she looked at her brain scan compared to a scan of another 48-year-old woman from the general population.

“The difference was definitely discernible,” she said. “It made me think of flossing your teeth so you don’t get gingivitis. You exercise your brain, and you can see the results.”

The study prompted Kurth to want to return to his own abandoned meditation practice.

“This study says it’s basically worthwhile to think about meditation,” he said.

Dr. Madhav Goyal told Reuters Health that the new study failed to convince him that he could prescribe meditation as an elixir to prevent brain loss.

“There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done,” said Goyal, who practices meditation and studies it as a professor at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The UCLA researchers found insignificant results when they performed the most conservative statistical analysis on their findings, he said.

Goyal would have liked the study to compare skill levels between meditators and non-meditators. He also questioned what kind of meditation, and whether it was indeed meditation, the meditators were doing.

“Meditation programs differ in how rigorously they teach the activity, a few hours over a few weeks versus 100 hours in a weeklong training,” Goyal said.

The new study “adds a little bit more evidence to the idea that the brain has plasticity, and by practicing certain mental activities, such as meditation, we can see structural changes in the brain as a result,” he said.

Mongolian scientists study 200-year-old mummified monk who is ‘still alive’

Scientists in Mongolia are examining a 200-year mummified monk who some Buddhists believe is still alive because he is in a deep meditative trance.

The preserved body of the monk, sitting in the cross-legged lotus position, was discovered last week, covered in cattle skin, in the Songino Khairkhan district of the capital, Ulan Bator.

The ash-colored mummy has reportedly been sent to the National Center of Forensic Expertise in Ulan Bator for further study.

Gankhüügiin Pürevbat, the founder of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulan Bator Buddhist University, told the Siberian Times, a news website: “The lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes of the preaching Sutra.

‘This is a sign that the lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas”.

Some experts on Buddhism said the monk could be in “tukdam”, a kind of deep meditative state that crosses over between life and death.

Dr Barry Kerzin, a monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama, told the website: “If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks – which rarely happens – his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes.”

Local media said a 45-old-man had been arrested because the monk’s body had been stolen from a cave with the intention of selling it off. It was unclear in what circumstances it was originally found.

The mummified monk is generally thought to have died in the 19th century. His identity is unknown.
In a similar case, the body of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, a lama in Russia’s Buryatia region, showed few signs of decay when it was exhumed in 2002. Monks say Itigilov is “not completely dead” and the temperature of his body rises during ceremonies at the monastery where it is kept near Ulan Ude.

Itigilov died in 1927 while meditating, having asked fellow monks to bury him in the lotus position after he passed away. His

Here’s How Zen Meditation Changed Steve Jobs’ Life And Sparked A Design Revolution

When Steve Jobs showed up at the San Francisco airport at the age of 19, his parents didn’t recognize him.

Jobs, a Reed College dropout, had just spent a few months in India.

He had gone to meet the region’s contemplative traditions — Hinduism, Buddhism — and the Indian sun had darkened his skin a few shades.

The trip changed him in less obvious ways, too.

Although you couldn’t predict it then, his travels would end up changing the business world.

Back in the Bay Area, Jobs continued to cultivate his meditation practice. He was in the right place at the right time; 1970s San Francisco was where Zen Buddhism first began to flourish on American soil. He met Shunryu Suzuki, author of the groundbreaking “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind,” and sought the teaching of one of Suzuki’s students, Kobun Otogawa.

Jobs met with Otogawa almost every day, Walter Isaacson reported in his biography of Jobs. Every few months, they’d go on a meditation retreat together.

Zen Buddhism, and the practice of meditation it encouraged, were shaping Jobs’ understanding of his own mental processes.

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is,” Jobs told Isaacson. “If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”

Jobs felt such resonance with Zen that he considered moving to Japan to deepen his practice. But Otogawa told him he had work to do in California.

Evidently, Otogawa was a pretty insightful guy.

When you look back at Jobs’ career, it’s easy to spot the influence of Zen. For 1300 years, Zen has instilled in its practitioners a commitment to courage, resoluteness, and austerity — as well as rigorous simplicity.

Or, to put it into Apple argot, insane simplicity.

Zen is everywhere in the company’s design.

Take, for instance, the evolution of the signature mouse:

It’s the industrial design equivalent of the enso, or hand-drawn circle, the most fundamental form of Zen visual art.

But Zen didn’t just inform the aesthetic that Jobs had an intense commitment to, it shaped the way he understood his customers. He famously said that his task wasn’t to give people what they said they wanted; it was to give them what they didn’t know they needed.

“Instead of relying on market research, [Jobs] honed his version of empathy — an intimate intuition about the desires of his customers,” Isaacson said.

What’s the quickest way to train your empathy muscles? As centuries of practitioners and an increasingly tall stack of studies suggest, it’s meditation.

When you take that into account, it’s easy to see that for Jobs, growing his business and cultivating his awareness weren’t opposing endeavors.

When he died, the New York Times ran a stirring quote about what he did for society: “You touched an ugly world of technology and made it beautiful.”

We can thank that time in India and on the meditation cushion for that beautiful, rigorous simplicity — one that sparked a design revolution.