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Showing posts from March, 2013

The macrobiotic diet

I've noticed for some time that diet has a particular effect on me, some of them mild and some of them more extreme. Here's what I noticed:

- I feel better after eating brown rice rather than eating white rice
- Potatoes make me tired and a bit bummy
- Quinoa and millet seem easy to digest and they have no negative effects
- Tomatoes are kind of upsetting in large amounts
- Cabbage and carrots give me a lift
- Large amounts of meat make me tired
- Oily fish seem to perk me up
- Fat, sugar and processed foods make me go downhill and have laxative effects on me
- Eating smaller meals keeps me alert

So I was going to formulate a diet based around these findings but then I discovered the macrobiotic diet, popularised by George Ohsawa. Although it's a bit extreme in places, the principles seem to overlap nicely with what I've been experiencing. Doing this diet would mean taking my food habits to whole new level and it will probably take a long while to adapt to it, but I wi…

Spend some time with the still point

It's there all the time within us, a point of unique stillness. If you get five minutes, try to tune in to it and enjoy a few moments abiding there. Then, perhaps notice that the mind begins to mould itself to the stillness -  we experience stillness and then we become shaped by it. What does it feel like? Who are we when we are completely still? Interesting questions that lead us deeper within.

As an aside, if we spend a few minutes every day focusing on relaxing nature scenes then, according to research, the functioning of our brain improves. I've not personally run my own scientific study to verify this, but it seems quite sensible -we sit in the park, we feel better afterwards. Perhaps this what stillness is all about - giving our brains time to recover and function better in the long run.

Experience stillness, experience more. Perhaps that should be the tag line for this post.

Chakras, posture and meditation

There is something magical about the spine and the way, if you align it just right, things start to flow. You can try it now - allow the vertebrae to find their natural position, connecting one after the other, and then allow the body to relax. You might find a sense of energy flowing and, if you look closely, you might be able to detect little energy spots inside your body otherwise known as the chakras - you find them at the base of the spine, somewhere near the belly button, at the solar plexus, the heart, throat, forehead and crown of the head. If you tune into these areas then there is a sense of the energy lighting up within the body.

Scientifically speaking the body is a bundle of fibre optic cables and muscles all wrapped up in a bag of skin. Now, if you imagine the muscles and fibre optics all sharing the same space, then tightening a muscle has the effect of cutting off information - perhaps that's why we tense up when we are in pain. Anyway, chronic tension in the body …

Meet my two new friends

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Time to work on the arms ...

Do you have something positive in your life?

Can you identify it right now? Does it bring you lightness, delight? Perhaps you feel that you don't need it. What does that suggest?

Where do you go for refuge from the world? Perhaps you don't have anything like this. What does this suggest?

It can be a relief to have something positive to return to when you need it. Something non-threatening, enjoyable, refreshing. Should we feel guilty about having something like this in our lives? Absolutely not. Find your oasis and lavish yourself in its rejuvenating essence. There are no prizes for doing things the hard way.

Using the "so what if" response

This is something I find useful every now and again. Let's say we become tangled up in a difficult mental state or situation. Perhaps we feel that we have lost control and we are being subjected to something that is beyond our ability to fix. So, for example:

- I feel ill
- I have all these symptoms
- it seems kind of impossible
- then, we might say to ourselves "so what if I am ill"
- perhaps the answer comes back, "I can't do what other people do"
- "so what if I have to rest all day"
- and so on, until we reach the conclusion that there is no real reason to feel oppressed at all. It's just a judgement that you've holding against yourself.

You get the idea. It gives the mind a little way out of a corner. You have to be careful not to over use this technique though - "so what if I pissed you off", etc. There's a kind of aggression when used in this manner.

The pursuit of the pleasant

If we do CBT or practise Buddhist techniques, we will be invited at some point to notice whether experiences are pleasant, unpleasant or somewhere in between. After a while we might notice that this sense of "how pleasant something is" is a continuously shifting field of experience - it is like a dancing candle inside of us, connecting our mind to more visceral sensations. It's even there when we are not conscious of it, driving us to do things we might not otherwise do. It underpins many of our impulses, desires, behaviours and actions. In short, it controls how we behave.

You might think you know why want something, but even that is not as clear cut as you might think. Perhaps we reach for a biscuit because we feel like something nice. Quite often, we already feel quite good but we don't know why so we try to attach some real world event to the feeling - so I now feel good because I ate a biscuit, not because I was feeling OK. Indeed, if we sit and do nothing we fa…

Some homebrew meditation instructions

Someone once asked me what I was doing at the bottom of the garden all these years and it was difficult to explain in five minutes so I did some guided meditations instead. Here they are:

Body scan meditation
Gladden the mind
Mindfulness/awareness meditation
Cultivating tranquility (jhana / samadhi)

Or, you could just sit somewhere for a bit and see what happens.

These are basic instructions and the only way to learn what happens is to do it for yourself. We go round the loop of relaxing the body, cultivating awareness, dropping into tranquility, and staying generally positive a few thousand times. After a while we may notice that we end up in the same empty, pleasant place and then we can explore further.

Here's my homebrew analysis of how things might progress:

Tier 1 - we learn how to meditate, we explore what happens in the mind
Tier 2 - we see what comes and goes, we get into the four foundations of mindfulness
Tier 3- we explore the arising of awareness, and the fabric of reali…

Pamoja - delight

I wanted to write about Pamoja because it's a nice word and it indicates a pleasant state of mind known as delight. (Pamoja means delight in Pali). I have a choice of course - I could write about how difficult my life is, but today I am in the mood for delight. (In some ways, this is our mental choice with regards to thoughts everyday, but let's not go there just yet.)

So then, Pamoja or delight. Delight occurs when the mind gives up on it's usual gropings, dislikings, annoyances, wantings and generally uncharitable thoughts. It's that moment when the sun comes out, and we stop to admire the warmth on our cheeks. Or when we drive to the seaside and see the sea for the first time. Our minds stop and we are momentarily free - it just feels nice.

Luckily we don't have to wait for the sun to come out to experience Pamoja. It occurs quite readily when we start to meditate. We sit there, the mind settles down, we let go of our concerns and, pling, we feel a sense of plea…