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canoe

Who ever came up with these lyrics was an enlightened genius, capturing some deep insights and incorporating them into a kids nursery rhyme. What a great idea. I loved this rhyme as a child. Looking at it now, it’s a bit like a mantra for a good life 😉

Row, row, row your boat (your body is your boat),
Gently down the stream (life is the stream).
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, (be cheerful)
Life is but a dream. (because it’s all just a dream)

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Will it harm me or will it heal me? That’s a question I’ve asked myself every time I went to eat or drink something for the past month, not because I have OCD (I don’t have OCD) but because I wanted to learn a new habit, a habit that would promote a healthy body and mind.

Some time ago I realised that the yogic principle of ahimsa, non-violence, didn’t just mean not to harm other living beings. When you think of everyone as individual parts of a whole, like billions of drops of water that make up an entire ocean, you see that we’re all one and the same, and that harming one being is just like harming every other being. So Ahimsa is the non-harming of any living being including yourself. But when most people think of harming others or themselves, they usually think of it in terms of some kind of physical violence or, less often, mental abuse. The majority of people, including myself, rarely think of non-harming in relation to their diet.

By asking yourself “will it harm me or will it heal me?” each time you’re about to eat or drink something, you become acutely aware of how your diet is affecting your body and mind. Of course when it comes to diet it’s not as black and white as the question I asked makes it seem, for instance drinking a lot of carrot juice can help prevent the formation and growth of cancer for people who don’t smoke, yet when people who do smoke drink a lot of carrot juice it can accelerate the growth and spread of cancer. This is just one example that comes to mind, there are many others. So when asking yourself will it harm or heal me, I’m talking about foods that are eaten in moderation. 

If you want a healthy body and mind, asking this simple question every time you eat or drink, just for a month, gives you a powerful tool for creating health and balance in the body and mind. Even after you stop asking the question, its subtle effects will continue to have an influence on you. In fact you’ll probably even find your eating habits changing for the better. For me, this is one of the simplest and most effective techniques I’ve used in my yogic practices. 

You are what you think

Actually you’re not what you think. It’s probably more accurate to say you’re the observer of your thoughts. It’s a bit of a philosophical round-a-bout. And as much as like round-a-bouts, they make me dizzy when I stay on them for too long. So let me get off this round-a-bout and tell you a story, or my version of a story I once read, that illustrates the title of this post quite nicely.

The story is of a Zen master and a student monk. The monk was having trouble meditating, in fact he was having trouble even concentrating which, as you can imagine, naturally frustrated him. The Zen master, seeing the monk’s frustration, asked him what was the matter, to which the monk replied, “I can’t meditate, my mind won’t stay focused on one object.”

After taking a moment to think about the monk’s problem, the Master asked, “what do you like?”

“The Buffalo,” the monk replied. “I like to watch the Buffalo in the meadow.”

After hearing his answer the Master instructed the monk to go to his meditation room and meditate on the Buffalo. Then the Master left and carried on with his own practices.

On returning to the monk’s meditation room, the Master was surprised to see the monk completely absorbed in deep meditation. When he woke the Monk and asked how long he had been sitting there for, the monk replied “since you left me three days ago.”

The Master told the monk he could end his meditation practice now and leave the room to get some food and water, but when the monk approached the door he told his master he was unable to leave. When the master asked him why, the monk said “I can’t fit through the door, my horns are too big.”

 The monk became so absorbed in his thoughts of the Buffalo that he became the Buffalo. Or to get back onto the round-a-bout, if the monk is the observer, and the observer, while conscious, identifies itself as the flow of thoughts that we call the mind, then what the mind focuses on is what the monk experiences himself as.

As long as you’re conscious and observing then you are what you think. So think happy thoughts 😉

Breast cancer awareness month

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Hello Blog! Sorry for neglecting you. Ive been sick but am much better now 🙂

A while ago I found out I had Thyroid cancer, which I’ve had surgically removed since. As a result, my AWARENESS of cancer and the effects it has on people has increased rather dramatically, as you can imagine. I’ve started a new blog that I’d love for you to have a look at and support if you feel like it. Don’t worry, I’ll also get back to writing this blog too.

The new blog is called cancer free world. head over and have a look at my latest blog all about how vitamin D could save your life.

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More concept art. This illustrates how changing our breath rhythm influences the nervous system, and subsequently the mind. In essence, fast breathing creates stress and agitation of the mind, whereas slow breathing creates a calm and content mind.

Useful to know in a modern world filled with manufactured stress and fear.

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Here’s some concept art I’m working on for my book project ‘The Smiling Masters’ to show how holding one thought in the mind generates a steady emotional state.

Here’s how it works
You receive sensory information about the object you’re focusing on (in this case it’s a rose). That information gets processed and filtered by the reticular formation in your brain (point 1). The filtered information is sent to the brain’s higher centres (point 2), where we perceive the rose. Our perception of the rose triggers an emotional reaction from the brain’s emotional centres (point 3). From here, the brain releases neuro peptides (messenger molecules) into the blood stream. Your emotional response then spreads to all areas of your body as it becomes flooded with these tiny emotional messengers. So whatever emotion we experience in response to the sensory input, let’s say in this case it’s joy, that emotion is felt throughout our entire body. Emotion is a mind-body experience.

When the body experiences an emotion, a feedback loop is created where the brain is told that the body feels that emotion (joy). When the brain gets this information, it produces more neuro peptides. This process continues until it gets interrupted by a new thought or another source of sensory input that changes our emotional state.

In the normal course of events we experience lots of emotional ups and downs because our thoughts are unfocused and tend to drift here and there, landing on whatever catches our attention for the most part. But once we learn to focus the mind and hold one thought, our emotional state becomes stable. And if we continue to bring the mind back to that one thought over and over again, eventually the emotion it produces becomes like an emotional reset point. That emotion becomes our dominant mood and state of being. So, I think it’s worth saying, be mindful of what you think about; your thoughts dictate your state of being.

samurai

Joy and combat. Trust a martial art enthusiast to make a connection between those two words. But interestingly, they go together, hand in hand. You see, when someone is engaged in combat, their attention is fully focused on their opponent’s every movement, as it happens in the moment. When in the heat of combat, there simply isn’t any time to reminisce on the past or worry about the future. There is only what’s happening now. Learning to fight, counter-intuitively, taught me how to relax and be present. Combat, for me, has become a type of meditation.

There’s an unexpected serenity to be found in the heat of battle.

Because the warrior’s mind is focused in the present, combat induces an unexpected calm, a type of joyful serenity in the mind of the warrior. This is probably why most people are pleasantly surprised when they meet someone training in the warrior arts. Instead of the aggressive, testosterone fueled monster they expect to meet, they’re greeted by a calm, and unusually present individual.

Of course, you don’t have to go out and start a fight just to experience a serene, and joyful mind. You just have to focus on what you’re doing right now. Mindfulness. That’s the key to a happy life.

If your mind is your reality, and mind is a stream of thoughts, then your state of mind (the thoughts you’re having) is reflected back to you by your reality. Smile, not just with your lips, but with your mind too 🙂

The simple path

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Sweeping the floor, watching your breath, drinking a cup of tea; whatever you like to do, pay attention to it.

The more focused on the present moment we become, the more our state of awareness expands. When the mind is caught up in thoughts of the past or future, it can’t be fully aware of what’s happening in the moment. Training the mind through focused concentration, brings us into that rare moment where we experience full awareness. Training the mind to do this is as simple as bringing your attention to what you are doing. Although, that’s not really as simple as it seems, is it? 🙂

Choose to be YOU

chameleon

For the morbidly obese man or woman, it’s not inevitable that you’ll continue to gain weight until you die of a heart attack. To the alcoholic, you don’t have to end up in the emergency room having your stomach pumped every night. And to anyone that has ever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You’re wrong. Someone needs to grab you by the shoulders and shake you till you wake up and realise that change is happening, every moment of every day, inside your body and all around you.

We’re changing, our reality is changing, and it’s happening ALL THE TIME. To say that someone can’t change, is a bullshit notion created by a society of people afraid of making their own decisions. But here’s the thing, every one of us is capable of thinking for ourselves, and every one of us is capable of change. We just have to wake up and start taking responsibility for our lives. If you’re overweight, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from making a decision to change your lifestyle in a way that will help you lose weight. If you’re unfit, then choose to get up and exercise. If something in your life needs to change, then change it, just don’t tell me you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that’s just an excuse, a weak excuse.

The problem, for many of us, is that we listen so much to what other people think, that we become this type of human chameleon, where, depending on what people label us as, we act out the traits of that label. So when your husband is with you, you’re the wife, and when you’re in work you become the chef/carpenter/super model, or what ever it is you do, and so on. If you’re overweight, you become the fat guy or girl. The thing is, and this is important, we don’t have to be the labels other people stick on us. We are totally free to be our selves. That’s the gift that change gives us, the gift of choosing who we are right now, in this moment, and of who we want to be and what direction we want to go in life. When we realise this, we become free, free to be an INDIVIDUAL.

Be your SELF

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