As more people embrace the healing benefits of meditation, they learn that some “accessories” are essential to this practice. While it’s certainly possible to sit on a mat in your living room and meditate, many people find it nearly impossible without a proper cushion and a meditation gong or chime.
Archive for the ‘Zen Living’ Category
Over the centuries, the Japanese art form called Ikebana has grown to become a modern form of expression around the world. Once limited to Japan, Ikebana is now a category in many international flower shows. It aims to bring nature and humanity together through an intriguing form of flower arrangement that is thoroughly unique.
Depending on where you live, there may still be snow on the ground, but not for long. Days are getting longer and temperatures are gradually ticking higher, which can only mean one thing: time to take some time out to bask in the sun. Spring is also the time to replenish your collection of “sunwear,” and I don’t just mean sunglasses. Sunny days are the perfect time to accessorize with silk scarves and sun hats.
Happy New Year! No I’m not behind – I’m talking about the Astrological Year which began on the Vernal Equinox. On March 20th, the Sun was re-born in the courageous, innovative and pioneering sign of Aries. This fire sign is inspirational, spontaneous, fearless, and independent and yes, often unpredictable.
As several of the planets including Venus, Mars, Mercury and Uranus are also refueling in Aries, spring fever is upon us. And ‘spring cleaning’ is the least of it! Aries is undaunted by obstacles and enjoys being the initiator. But the cosmos does not plan to have the youthful and inexperienced Aries making all the decisions this month. A Full Moon Lunar Eclipse on the 25th is one of the first, but unmistakable signs, our best interests are not served by an attitude or approach of ‘full steam ahead’. Not unless we care to emulate the fate of the indomitable but unfortunate Titanic, which by the way, met its misadventure in April a century ago.
When the earth stands between the Sun and Full Moon, it is a harbinger of change – often endings or culmination points. This particular eclipse spotlights issues associated with Taurus – the need to own, accumulate, and collect, and Scorpio – our need to cleanse, purify, heal and release. This is the month to give serious consideration to everything in your life – from relationships to the salt and pepper set on the kitchen counter. How do the people and things in your life reflect you and your values? Be honest with yourself and release what is no longer working and open up to your future. Although you may not be able to replace the loveseat that reminds you of your old boyfriend, do what is possible to recycle and release. Then treat yourself to something within your budget that reflects your dreams for your future. How about a salt lamp? Earthy and practical Taurus will approve both the function and beauty and Scorpio will appreciate the cleansing and spiritual properties. Make all your decisions winning ones this month with a conscious approach.
C.A. Brooks is a clairvoyant astrologer, writer, speaker and coach
You can find her at 12Listen.com and read her weekly astrology column in Mark’s Power Peek at 12House.com. She hosts a daily radio show “A Course in Miracles Daily Lessons” on 12Radio.com at 7am Pacific – 10 Eastern. You can also tune into her weekly Astrology radio program, Simpletales, on 12Radio.com every Tuesday 11am Pacific – 2 Eastern.
We’ve all heard about the ritual practices that surround tea drinking, which seem to arise from various cultures around the world. In England, tea time has developed into a late day meal with its own etiquette and special traditions. But tea takes on a more personal meaning in Asian cultures, where it becomes a form of meditation.
Almost every activity we do has a purpose and generally, a specific goal in mind. Whether it’s driving to work, exercising or doing laundry, the activity is aimed at achieving something. What would happen if we gave up the goal? What would a journey without a goal look like?
Imagine going for a bike ride with no particular purpose. You plan on taking a new path to explore and wind up taking another direction because you become
curious about what is around the corner. No destination in mind, nothing to achieve. Just curiosity, having fun, and the anticipation of not knowing what the outcome will be.
What would it be like to try doing a project or task without a goal? Set your intention to express yourself without knowing the effect of the outcome you achieve and have fun. Imagine figuring out the work as you go, allowing yourself to go where it takes you. This process stimulates your curiosity to keep going because each new step wants you to find out more, do more and experience more.
Taking this concept a step farther, Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, asks what would it be like to live life without a fixed plan? Without knowing where you’ll be living in five years, or what you’ll be doing, or what you want to achieve? While the answers are unknown, he has experienced a new level of freedom by letting go of goals, fixed plans and destinations.
Our parents and our society have taught us to be organizers, planners and goal-setters. To let go requires a radical shift in thinking to one that allows for the free-flow of ideas and just being in the moment of the experience.
There is no right or wrong way to get started with free-flow. That is the real undiscovered beauty with this shift in thinking. Ideas form without goals, planning or intent on how the end result should be. Tomorrow, wake up excited about being alive. Ask yourself what you would like to do that perhaps you have always wanted to, but haven’t. You Remember, you aren’t bound to anything at this point, but the question is important.
Get started! Do something that you enjoy or are excited about. Have fun just experiencing each step with this new perspective and see where it takes you in the process. While the project may be a goal or destination, remember, it’s not fixed! There is no set plan and the destination doesn’t matter as much as the process- the journey itself. Your focus may shift as you go. The flow of ideas or unforeseen circumstances may change your course. The key is to adapt. No plan
can anticipate every outcome and neither can you. Without predetermined goals and destinations, you will find the path much more rewarding, uninhibited and a richer learning experience in the end. Discovering new and different outcomes create flexibility and you will become better at change and uncertainty instead of fearing it.
As new challenges arise, you will be better equipped to adapt and let go of tightly held beliefs that may hold you back from new and rewarding opportunities. You are free to do this because you don’t mind where you end up – it is about being present in the journey, excited about each step and having fun along the way. Each step becomes the destination, and is exactly where you should be.
I have encountered a lot of people lamenting their feelings of restlessness, desiring change and wanting more meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Striking a chord within me as well, I thought perhaps it’s the dead of winter and we are all longing for spring, a time of renewal? The common thread that seemed to be pulling these discussions together was the notion of feeling stuck, plodding through the motions of daily life and unsure of how to find the answers leading to greater happiness and meaning.
While we all have the best intentions to take more time for ourselves, life and the responsibilities of work, home and family always seem to take precedence while our personal needs take the back seat. Once we realize where we are – far from our own deep spiritual connection with the universe, how do we find our way back?
Feelings of restlessness or the sense that we are “missing our greater purpose” can often be found in the need to become reconnected with our divine inner spirit. I have found one of the most consistent and enjoyable ways to stay centered and grounded is to count the blessings in my life. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for over 3 years. Every night when I crawl into bed, I take a few deep cleansing breaths, clear my mind of the day’s clutter and become quiet within. Within this reflective place, I take stock of my day. I focus on the positive things that happened to me and enter those in the journal. I start each entry with “Today I am grateful for”… and begin listing all the blessings that I encountered throughout the day.
When I first endeavored to begin my gratitude journal, it was somewhat daunting and a challenge trying to find good in some otherwise not so good days. When I look back at the initial entries, they were pretty basic, but none the less important, for example, I would enter, I am grateful for my home, my job, my family. As time went on, I found myself looking forward to my journaling time each evening. It has become a time where I can look within, clearly and honestly and be able to count the abundance of blessings for what I have, what I desire and most importantly, honoring and acknowledging all the good in my life. Blessings are not only for what we receive, but what we can impart to others. I often find my heart overflowing with all the abundance when putting my blessings to paper and this simple act often takes me away from the disconnected feeling I may have been experiencing that day.
I have found that expressing gratitude and counting my blessings has also dramatically changed my outlook on life, on my relationships and my overall perspective of “my greater purpose” in life. Gratitude offers a conscious awareness of focusing on what you do have rather than what you don’t and I have found that expressing gratitude brings more to be thankful for and a richness to my life that is always with me now.
My gratitude journal inspires me to focus on the positive more than the negative each day. I welcome new opportunities with excitement and think to myself, I need to write this in my gratitude journal tonight! On many days, I can’t even wait to write in my journal. I stop what I am doing and give thanks to the universe for whatever blessing I’m experiencing right then and there!
Expressing gratitude is a powerful tool that aligns with the universal law of attraction. To that which you are grateful, the universe responds by attracting more of those good things to you. This applies as much to challenges and problems we encounter as it does the good things that come into our lives. I discovered not too long ago, that my perception on how I approach difficulties has changed dramatically. The change occurred ever so subtly that I surprised myself with this realization. All the frustration and complications that used to come with challenges is no longer there. I see challenges presented to me as gifts from the universe. It becomes an opportunity to grow, learn a new skill and to advance both emotionally and spiritually. When faced with a challenge, I even find myself saying ok universe, you really threw a good one at me this time. What do I need to learn from this? As my focus changed, so did my energy. Staying positive and grateful raises your vibration and provides you with the tools you need to tackle a problem. As I work through the challenge, I express gratitude for each step of the process, for what I have gained by the experience and for who I am for having come through it. Each step forward is a step towards something bigger and something better than the current situation you find yourself in. Gratitude helps you grow and expand and the happiness you experience from that can enrich your life and the lives of others. Being able to express appreciation for moving through obstacles and gleaning what is to be learned from it, you won’t be attracting any more of those challenges into your life!
Over time, I have found my gratitude journal is much like peeling an onion. Each day offers a new layer of self-discovery, full of reward and appreciation for the infinite possibilities available to me. It also provides a special, dedicated quiet time to connect with my inner spirit. It is a time to offer my deep appreciation to the universe for all the good and yes, even the challenges – all through the simple act of counting my blessings.
Karen Phillips is a holistic nurse practitioner. She works with animals and their humans “healing both ends of the leash” using Healing Touch® energy therapy for health and behavioral issues and for preventative care. She lives in Centennial Colorado. To contact her to learn more about Healing Touch®, she can be reached at (303) 995-6677 or by email at
In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a Zen garden, let’s just say “it’s not your grandmother’s garden,” and probably not your mom’s either. As nontraditional as Zen gardening may be to the Western eye, it has an effect on people that borders on transformational. One visitor who sat in the Zen rock garden at London’s Three Wheels Temple said this: “It is very hard to explain… suddenly you feel a great peace and you feel just completely happy sitting there. All your mind wants to do is be there, taking in the tiny details like the shapes of the rocks and little patches of purple in the dark green of the moss.”
It seems like this time of year everyone starts thinking about spring. With the official start of spring just a month away, women start looking for ways to introduce more color to their wardrobes. The February birthstone, amethyst, offers more than just a burst of violet color; it has a host of healing qualities that transcend the ordinary. It is precisely these powers that have made the amethyst such a well-known and sought after stone.
We often go through our days following routines and patterns we’ve developed over our lifetime. The motions of home, school and work life become comfortable without requiring a lot of effort or thought. Now, contrast this with the idea of intention. Everything you do is done with mindfulness, a consciousness of fulfilling one of your core values such as love or compassion.
While many activities of daily living are initially done with intent, once it is figured out, we tend not to think about it and it soon becomes lost in the repetition over time.
What if you could change that? Creating a mindful intention with your actions can transform each day and perhaps your life.
The next time you have a load of laundry to wash, say to yourself that you are doing this as a service to your family, to make them happy and as a form of meditation to practice mindfulness. Doing the laundry will take on much more importance, and would cease to be mundane.
The only difference is intention.
What if driving to work was done after affirming an intention to help your co-workers, to make people happy and to find satisfaction through your work? The drive might be much happier, and you might be less likely to get irritated when someone inevitably cuts you off in traffic.
This is the Intentional Life.
Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits practices living life with intention and finds life more purposeful, lived more consciously and ultimately, finds greater contentment. Before you start your next project whether at home, school or work, pause a moment, close your eyes, and mentally affirm your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? Out of gratitude for the work and kindness of others?
As you begin the task, be mindful of your intention throughout. This is a small step, but in those few moments, you will be living an Intentional Life.