Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘meditation’

A Golden Process

The Dream Alchemist: A Woman’s Search for Love, Bliss, and Freedom Across India, Time and Dreams – A Memoir by Anna-Karin Bjorklund. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51yhA4S1y4LThere’s a lot of insight, love, clarity, visions, and bliss in The Dream Alchemist, and it all feels genuine. This journey, by Ms. Bjorklund, isn’t always a piece of cake. It takes courage to be with oneself and see what is present. She never turns away, gives up, or blames others. Whenever in conflict, confusion, or difficulty, the author turns within.

“This book,” Anna-Karin says, “is a memoir of my own adventure at a small ashram in India, and the philosophical remnants that followed – a golden process of soul growth, the majestic journey of stepping into my own power, and finding the path of self-love.” Thus, she describes her stay at Brahman Sanctuary in southern India.

She describes the people she meets, what she learns, and the experiences that stayed with her. Most of the retreat is done in silence, accept for meeting with her Dassas (guru’s helpers). The guru’s (teacher) name is Brahman, though they only see him briefly on the last day. Fellow followers include Nicolita, Richard, and Ananda.

“Every day in our sessions with the dassas we’re reminded to observe our thoughts, breath, and emotions. This is a good exercise. After all, the most profound insight came to Buddha just from observing and being in this in-between state where he was simply not trying anything to hard. Every now and then I manage to float away and just observe, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes I struggle more – thoughts swirl around in my head. At the end of the day, this meditation technique is all about being in a state of observation and being aware of our perception. This applies to suffering as well!”

How Ms. Bjorklund lives, and adapts, to her life in the “outer world”, when she returns from her time in India, is just as interesting as the original retreat. Job, immigrant status, relationships, school, and pregnancy, all play big parts in her new found awareness. The Dream Alchemist takes readers’ on a reflective journey inside and outside our selves, and a part of the world we may never personally visit.

Strange Bodily Happenings

My Terrible Book of Happiness… Love, Anxiety and Everything
by Margaret Lesh. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51DM674eXbL._SY346_One of the things I greatly appreciate about My Terrible Book of Happiness, is that Ms. Lesh doesn’t claim to be an “expert”, or have all the answers, but simply shares what she has experienced, and what has helped her in her life, when anxiety, hopelessness, and depression are present. The very first line says, “There is no one-size-fits-all cure to sadness, but it helps when we share our life experiences – the stumbling parts, the dark places – so we know we are not alone. The end of 2016 and first half of 2017 found me mired in a trap of anxiety, worry, and depression: three things I happen to be good at.”

These essays, antidotes, stories, and trivia, includes four sections (Anxiety, Peace, Love, and Hope). One of suggestions is to take a break from social media and the news, and only take it in in small amounts. There is also a chapter with a great title “Swiss Cake Rolls, Other Strange Bodily Happenings, and Walking”, where she shares the affects that having a child and going through menopause have had on her belly and health, and the benefits of exercise to not only make one fit, but to also ease anxiety. This essay is called “Move It, Baby”. The author speaks frankly, and insightfully, about the benefits of meditation in her section called “Meditation for the Meditatively Challenged (Like Me)”.

After a number of entertaining, and enlightening stories and events, Ms. Lesh summarizes what she has learned by saying, “Unplugging, turning inward, reassessing, and refocusing on my mental and physical health were what I needed to do to pull myself out of my long slump. Walking, yoga, meditation, prayer, active gratitude, mindfulness, music, laughter, and spending time in nature are all things that helped me through the dark times.” The postscript includes a list of what has helped her the most, resources available to readers’ and numbers to call for help. My Terrible Book of Happiness isn’t sad, or depressing, but hopeful, honest, and perhaps a lifeline for someone reading the words within.

Living With What Is

Purpose – Volume I: Meditation On Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance To Life by Noura. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51N-HDlr0mLPurpose is a brilliant artistic exploration of our hearts and minds, what we see, and what we tell ourselves about our experience. Noura looks at, and investigates, major principles and subjects within meditation, psychology and philosophy, with clear vision and insight. Her descriptions of words and phrases (awareness, belief, conflict, content, energy, form, ideas, illusions, intelligence, reality, sacrifice, selflessness, truth, etc.) are spot on and all inclusive. She simplifies what can seem complicated.

This is a book about asking questions. She says, “Is it possible to have clarity about ourselves that enables us to understand ourselves totally, so we never have to rely on any belief? If we can look and see clearly for ourselves, are beliefs necessary?” The author asks readers’ to look in the mirror. “What is purpose? What is our purpose? How do we find it? Where do we look? What gets in the way of seeing it?” We seldom stop to ask ourselves such questions, let alone inquire deeply into what these questions mean.

How does one do this? “The only tools we use to investigate into our minds are the following: 1) Looking without judgment and without excluding anything in particular 2) Inquiring into the purpose of everything in our lives, including the obvious 3) Being open to hearing an interpretation of life that’s different from ours, not accept or reject, only listen.” She explains how to pay attention. “Meditation is the art of living with what is, without condemnation, judgments, fragmentation, or covering it up with ideals.”

Noura also looks at projection, magical thinking, darkness/fear/unknown, and duality, with a section about mental health. She says, Psychological Hygiene is the habit of building awareness through observation, self-inquiry, and self-contemplation…” “Very often, we focus on what’s going on externally at the detriment of what’s going on in the inside.” The stories and tales told in Purpose, lend further credence and understanding to the concepts and inquiry provided in this engaging and insightful volume.

Five Pillars

51OeRQe8OxLDeep Personal Transformation: How to Achieve Inner Harmony and Ultimate Happiness by Nebo D. Lukovich. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

In my life, and that of most I know, I have learned how personal transformation can be the result of suffering and hardships. I’ve written extensively about resilience and the insights people can have when going through intense loss and trauma. In Deep Personal Transformation Mr. Lukovich provides an additional way to make such progress, or develop this inner knowledge, without having to jump into the fire before finding the water to put it out.

He writes, “Permanent transformation can essentially be achieved in two ways: through suffering or through wisdom. Either we painfully push forward through any obstacle or disappointment, learning our lessons the hard way and emerging from the experience more mature, or we chose a path of love, consciousness, and wisdom, which also makes us mature, but in a far more enjoyable and effective manner. This book is all about learning the second, the superior way.”

By integrating neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics, with accompanying illustrations, graphs, and quotes, Mr. Lukovich presents his reintegration technique. He says it is a result of over two years of daily meditating and mindfulness practice. The five pillars of this methodology are: 1) There exists an underlying reality, 2) Everything is interconnected, 3) The outer world is a mirror of our inner being, 4) Apparently negative inner structures have a positive origin and purpose, and 5) This is a world of polarities. In many ways, it all comes down to transforming the mind content with presence, also known as mindfulness.

The Inner Triangle is the main technique and consists of: Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI), Moving to the Heart (MH), and Dissolving the Temporary I Plus (DTI+). Though some of these practices and exercises at first sound complicated, the author breaks them down into discernible parts which are easily digestible and easy to use. Deep Personal Transformation is practical, methodical, and comprehensively designed. Mr. Lukovich states it so eloquently in closing. “Countless lessons are here to be learned, at our disposal, if only we are aware of them. In these lie the real strength of this system. Through your personal work and meditation and mindfulness, you will elevate your consciousness to unexpected levels.”

A Love Contract

When Soul Is Life: Life Transforming Wisdom from the Heart of the Soul by Kylie Riordan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41kFm7QBHBLWe all know that peace, love, kindness, and caring are the essence of a happy and fulfilling life, but most of the time we forget. That’s when a good friend, teacher, or book comes along to help remind us of what we already know. When Soul Is Life does just that. Ms. Riordan proclaims, “I now make kindness my religion, empathy my form of meditation, and compassion my prayer.” If just stating it made it so, we’d all be one big mushy mass of humanity hugging one another and lending a hand. Thankfully, she doesn’t just say it, she shows us how.

“I am honored that we (readers) are on this journey together and I look forward to entering a scared contract of love with you.” The author provides definitions for kindness, love, compassion, and gratitude, and how we can all (together) bring them into our lives, and remember to not only believe in these qualities (and virtues), but put them into practice. Personal examples, exercises, affirmations, and helpful lists, are exhibited throughout, with liberal doses of humility and understanding. “The truth is, compassion is just love, kindness, and forgiveness.”

Chapters include – Forgiveness; Courage; Soul Essentials; Love; Kindness; Gratitude and Simplicity. There is a section on intuition, how to know when it is present (gut feeling, walk, shivers, and flow), and when to follow it. Discussions about love, and the difference between romantic and spiritual love. One of my favorite areas is when Ms. Riordan shares five tips on how to live in the moment (spend time in nature, use abdominal breathing, meditation, awareness of feelings, and making peace with the past). There is also a good quantity of discourse about courage, happiness and authenticity.

The themes and insights in When Soul Is Life reminded me of my time sitting with others who were experiencing extreme pain, loss, emotions, and the aftermath of trauma. As a grief and bereavement counselor in hospital, hospice, private practice, and a variety of health care settings, I was touched by the many occasions of shared humanity. There were times when I would be detached, and others when I was completely overwhelmed. The moments that were most precious, and I believe the most helpful, were when I was able to be completely present, loving, and compassionate. Ms. Riordan’s words, and experiences in this book, helped me remember how to find those moments again.

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

Breathing Saved My Life

515Olli8CcL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_

the art of breathing
The secret to living mindfully.
Just don’t breathe a word of it..
by Dr. Danny Penman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I haven’t seen any book quite like this since the classic Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, back in 1971. Those pages about consciousness, meditation and oneness, opened my eyes to seeing life in new ways, and discovering that I was not a victim of circumstances, or destined to live with pre-conceived conditions. In many ways that book saved my life. The art of breathing can save yours. 

Though half the size of Be Here Nowthe art of breathing is also similar in the way it is designed, using different fonts, layouts, and illustrations, throughout. Dr. Penman includes sections on breathing, happiness, curiosity and awareness, that are straight (or circular) to the point(s), easy to understand, and even easier to practice. There is also a link included to an online site that has all of the meditations available.

Here is a brief excerpt.

“You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. It’s a subtle distinction that’s only perceived with practice.

Your thoughts are a running commentary on the world; a ‘best guess’ of what’s truly happening. Often, your thoughts will reflect the powerful emotional currents swirling through your mind, body and breath. Sometimes they are true, sometimes they are a frantic work in progress, sometimes they are wrong.

Mindfulness teaches you to take the long view, to put your thoughts, feelings and emotions into a broader context. And when you do so, your most frantic and distressing thoughts simply melt away of their own accord, leaving behind a calm, clear, insightful mind.”

There you have it. The means to not get caught in drama after drama, but learn to pause, take a breath, and observe the dance. Our experiences are shaped by stimulus and response. It is the space in between, the breath, that provides the opportunity to see what is there and make conscious choices. The art of breathing is an international best-seller, and when you get your copy you will see why. Become conscious – one breath at a time.

 

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