Desert Super Bloom of Love

The desert always has more to teach. In the past, I came to the desert seeking power. This time I asked to learn about Love.

The desert greeted me and my students with the sweet scent of wild flowers perfuming the warm air. Birds cooed and chirped while bees buzzed and kissed every open bloom. A blanket of green draped over the mountains, soft and inviting – a stark contrast to their typical burnt brown vegetation and sun-bleached stone.

We left the retreat house in the late afternoon and drove through the deep sand to a cliff tucked away in the folds of the desert canyons. The sun sank behind the mountains, turning the sky a fiery yellow and orange. Mars rose white and bright as the last rays of sun splashed pink across the sparse streaks of cloud.

Deep blue gave way to velvet black while Orion stood proud with his bow outstretched and his sword hanging at his side. All thought fell silent as the sky yawned wide, revealing the Milky Way and a million sparkling diamonds…so many worlds of Light.

In the loving arms of the desert, She let me play with the energy and twist our perception. Laying down our backs, we watched the stars dance above us. With a slight push of occult pressure, the world turned, and we felt as if we were standing, leaning against a wall in front of an open doorway to the stars. The students giggled, and shifting us once again, we flipped back and then upside down. We stared down, watching the ocean of stars, our bodies glued to the ceiling of dirt as the universe spun around below us. In these moments, the desert taught me the love of play and laughter.

As we packed up, one student had trouble standing. Two others rushed to helped her, and in that moment, I witnessed the love of sangha. Selflessly and without hesitation or judgment, spiritual friends lifted one in need and helped her down the steep hill.

The next day, I saw self-love as she chose to stay at the retreat house while the rest of us ventured out again. She went within at the house where she could learn from the desert while respecting the limits of the body.

Upon heading back to our secret spot, this time late at night under the star-filled sky, we found a tent pitched. We sat silently on the cliff, not far from the tent. The desert continued to teach the theme of love, this time of a couple engaged in idle chatter, waiting for us to leave! After a few minutes of meditation, the desert reveled to me a new place where we could sit, and each group could have their privacy.

After driving through the sandy canyons and washes, we came upon the spot I had seen. The wash opened wide, and we sat on a hard shelf of sand that formed a type of sidewalk to keep us off the road. The first area we had been was one of seeing and third eye vision. This new site was all heart: expansive yet protected, spacious yet full. The desert washed us with pure love, as we sat in Her and with Her, merging mind with Eternity.

The next day, my students left. I had hoped my husband would join me in a wild flower hunt, but tired and sore from hockey practice, he stayed home. I recognized the love of relationship, where we respect each other’s needs and wants.

Alone in the retreat house and in the wide desert, I saw that was not the end of it as an old samskara arose within me. I had asked to learn about love, and the desert delivered once again.

I love adventure, and I love sharing adventures with others. The pattern from the past is to always take someone with me. I’ve broken this pattern many times, and many times it has returned. This time, in the stillness of the desert, I saw beneath the pattern. I witnessed the loneliness of not having someone to share the beauty with, and the loneliness of not having another actor in the story.

Sitting with full awareness of this sadness and loneliness, I realized in each moment it is enough to enjoy the beauty and connection with Eternity. And I realized alone, I am enough, always and in all ways.

As Eternity washed away the remnants blocking my heart, vulnerable and small, I opened deeper. I see how my will pales against Her might, and once again I see I am not the doer; I am being done.

On the last morning, I walked along a trail at the base of a mountain I had discovered on a solo adventure the previous day. I found the perfect boulder for meditation, where I could sit above the ground fully supported. Bees buzzed all around, like the hive upon Kali’s head. In this place, there is no fear. There are only beings doing what needs to be done, collecting the sweet nectar. A dragonfly danced around me as the clouds alternated sun and shade. And the birds continued their cooing and chirping.

I dissolved once again into Mother Earth and melted into the Sun. I am loved and I am love. Even in my forgetting, my heart knows I am being done.

*Please note: Going alone into the desert or any wilderness is dangerous. Be smart by staying near populated trails and checking in with park rangers before and after your adventures. You don’t want to break your leg in an accidental fall and become ant food because no one knows where you are!

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Jenna

 

The Hidden Trap of Mind States

While two people may be in the same circumstances, each one will experience those circumstances differently. This is because our experience of life is determined by the state of our mind. We cannot always change the events we face in life; however we can always change the mind state from which we view these events.

The good news is all states of mind have the same essential structure. The bad news is mind states contain the illusion they are all-encompassing. When you are in a particular state, especially those very uncomfortable dark mind states such as fear, frustration, guilt, and sorrow, it feels as if there is no other option from which to view the world.

A mind state’s structure causes everything you see to become a reflection of that mind state. When you are angry, the mind highlights all the things you come across that trigger carousel-689338_640anger for you and filters out everything else. So of course, you believe the world to be an angry place and you can show any reasonable person your proof with lots of examples, because that is your experience of it.

The reality is your mind state is no more permanent than the clothes you are wearing right now. Just as you can change your clothes, you can alter the filter through which you perceive the world. There’s a certain amount of energy required to take off one outfit and put on another; so expect to exert some effort when you change to a new mind state.

Before you can change your view, you first must become aware of your current mind state. This can be tricky, because of the hidden trap of mind states. Your ego craves continuity,
even when it is painful, so it hides the variations of our mind states from our
consciousness by creating the illusion that things have always been like this. Even our memories of prior moments are colored by the filter based on the current mind state, and this only strengthens the ego’s trap.

Just for this moment, take a leap of faith and examine your thought patterns and give your mind state a label. You might be thinking about the injustices of the world or how someone hurt you. You may call this mind state “Anger” or “Frustration” or “Sorrow.” For a moment, sit with this label and observe how it feels in your mind and body.

Now that you know where you are, you can move to a new state. Remember, this will take a bit of effort. However, you also know how uncomfortable your this mind state really is, so it is well worth the investment.

Focus on something in your current environment that appears beautiful to you. Or, if you cannot see any beauty from where you’re sitting, focus on one thing you are grateful for right now. It can be something as simple as the beauty of a certain color or as small as gratitude for being able to breathe.

This is the point where the ego begins to fight, so be prepared. Keep focusing on beauty or gratitude, no matter what your thoughts tell you. Sometimes the thoughts become very convincing as they try to keep you in that old mind state of anger or frustration or sorrow. Just for a few minutes, let those thoughts go. Return once again to the object of beauty or gratitude. Stay focused until you feel a shift within your mind.

Congratulations, you’ve proven to yourself that a mind state can be changed!

As you return to whatever tasks you have before you, notice how this state of beauty or gratitude feels in your body and mind. Perhaps you may even notice that everything looks bright and beautiful: you might call this mind state “happiness” or “peace.” Enjoy it and continue to watch your mind as you delve into your projects and interactions. Whenever your mind begins to slip into a downward spin, stop and pull it back up again. With practice, you’ll find it becomes easier and easier to tip towards a higher view and you’ll no longer be caught by the hidden trap of mind states.

What things lift you into beauty? What are you grateful for right now?

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Jenna

 

Dissolving Attachments

Attachments are dissolved by becoming aware of the suffering they cause. We are naturally inclined to want to feel good, so when we know something causes pain, we stop doing it. However, we must actually know and be fully aware of the painful consequences of an attachment; an intellectual understanding is not enough.

Once we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, the hot stove will burn us, we automatically flame-580342_640pull our hand away once we feel the heat. There is no extra effort or will power required; we simply do it.

The same is true when we become fully acquainted with our attachments, and we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, the pain is caused by the attachment. At that point, the attachment naturally falls away.

As you practice mindfulness, you’ll become more and more aware of your many attachments. You’ll know you’ve hit one when you get knocked off balance. Set aside some time to contemplate the recurring patterns that cause suffering in your life. Dig deep until you see the underlying attachment. Keep looking, and allow yourself to know what that attachment is costing you. Once you really know, you’ll change without further effort; the attachment will dissolve.

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Jenna

PS. Please also join me for a FREE Live Teleconference: “Using Karma to Your Advantage” on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 11:00am (PST). This one-hour class will be based on the chapter by the same title from my book, Peace with Pain.
For call-in details and the March meditation tip, please visit Dharma Center’s website. (They have a separate mailing list, so if you like the tip, please sign up for their list, even if you cannot get to San Diego for class.)

This Live Teleconference is sponsored by the Rama Meditation Society. To learn more and to find more virtual classes, please visit Rama Meditation Society and/or sign up for that list as well!

3 Reasons to Retreat

Many people in our society work themselves to the breaking point, and then they seek an escape from their stressful lives. This escape is usually in the form of a vacation. However,CathedralLight they often spend most of their getaway feeling just as stressed as when they were working. The only benefit seems to be the addition of pleasant memories that serve as a virtual means of escape until the next vacation.

On the path of spiritual practice, retreat does not mean running away. Rather, a retreat is a strategic withdrawal with the intent to return stronger. As we work in the world, we use our mindfulness practice to stay aware of how we are doing on all levels, and we plan our step back consciously so we avoid losing all perspective in what can quickly become a life and death struggle.

The practice of retreat has three reasons behind it, each one working in concert with the others.

Relaxation

The first part of any successful retreat is relaxation. We must be willing to detach from the world, from all of our struggles on the playing field, and from everything that defines us. There’s an assumption this happens automatically, hence the popularity of vacation. However, you’ve probably already noticed how when you step away from work and the struggles of daily life, they stay with you in your mind. When we plan a retreat, we factor in time to allow both the body and mind to relax. Part of this time is spent tying up loose ends before leaving – this is the strategic withdrawal. For example, making sure the bills are paid, putting up an out-of-town notice on your email, and making sure you have clean clothes ready for your return to work in your closet. Once you’ve arrived at your retreat destination, consciously let go of everything, trusting that your preparations will hold all the aspects of your life together while you are away. Relaxation purifies our being, creating within us a sense of inner detachment that allows us to see the path before us with clarity.

Rejuvenation

Once you’ve relaxed, rejuvenation is possible. For many people, this is the favorite part of a retreat, and they try to jump right into new experiences. Relaxing creates a space for those new experiences to be explored without the stress of the past getting in the way. Others get stuck in the relaxation phase. Instead of stopping with the clearing away, we can fill ourselves with Light by embracing all the present moment has to offer. On a retreat, we may visit new places, meet new people, push ourselves into higher brighter mind states through meditation – or do all of the above. Part of the fun of retreat is figuring out what will provide a sense of renewal, right now. Rejuvenation rebuilds our being from the inside, creating a sense of excitement about life and our place within it.

Reconnection

Rejuvenation gives us the energy required to reconnect with our highest, deepest Self. While living and working in the world, it’s easy to lose our way and become bogged down by material concerns. We start looking outward and attempt to fix the world, forgetting that all we experience is a reflection of our inner being. Our perception as a separate individual tricks us into thinking we are alone, and the world rests solely upon our shoulders. That weight can cause us to doubt ourselves and make us feel as if we can accomplish nothing. By communing with Spirit, God, Source, or whatever your Word of the day is, we remember what we are: pure Light. Reconnection with this wisdom provides the strength to return to our work in the world.

For those of us serious about our spiritual practice, making time to retreat is not an option, it’s a necessity. Even when we cannot disappear for several days, we can still create a retreat whenever the need arises. All we need to do is remember these three reasons – Relaxation, Rejuvenation, Reconnection – and carve out time to step away and experience all three. We may only be gone for a few minutes or an hour, but this conscious retreat can make all the difference in our inner life.EyeArch

If you would like to experience a longer retreat, join me in May 2016 at Arches National Park in Utah. Please visit DharmaCenter.com/power-trips to learn more.

 

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Jenna

 

Sitting in Judgement

It’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about.

I loved my work as a computer consultant designing software, coding, testing, and training the end users. I also made a ton of money and was able to pay off all my student loans and credit card debt. I even bought a vehicle straight off the assembly line. That was fun, to get exactly what I wanted.

But life doesn’t always give us what we think we want.

My body went haywire, and slowly everything I built was destroyed. I lost not only my job, but my career and identity as a computer consultant. I lost friends, and I nearly lost my boyfriend. But he stuck around and our relationship grew into something new, something stronger. (He’s now my husband.) I lost an entire decade – my 30’s – to spending the majority of my time being sick in bed.

I lost all my physical strength, and sometimes even my brain would shut down, causing me to have memory lapses and confuse words, like saying black when I meant white. My husband repeatedly deals with me insisting we’ve never watched a movie, only to have to me say: “Oh! I remember it now!” at the last scene. (I just did that to myself yesterday!)

If you’ve never had severe pain and fatigue, you cannot imagine what it’s like to be on the couch wanting a glass of water and not being able to get it. Until you experience it, you cannot know the frustration of having the wrong word come out of your mouth, and knowing it’s wrong, but not being able to do anything about it except try to back-peddle and try to explain what you really meant, with words that – yes, you guessed it – also come out wrong. Until you lived it, you cannot know what it’s like to have an unpredictable body that may or may not cooperate at any given moment.

There was no car accident or sudden incident to point to…this illness came upon me gradually, like being hit by a truck over and over. At one point, during one of my early collapses, I argued with myself about calling Rama for help. I had the number to his answering service, so I could have easily gotten a message to him.

But as I said, it’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about. I thought the pain and fatigue were temporary. I thought I was being weak. I convinced myself it was nothing to worry about, and that I needed to exercise more and work harder. In short, I ignored my body’s cries for help and tried to force it to perform despite the collapses.

Two weeks later, Rama died.

After Rama left the body, I spent a lot of time beating myself up over the decision not to call him. He could have healed me, right? Or he could have at least spared me a great deal of suffering.

When he was gone, I decided to honor the commitment I made during the teaching empowerment he gave me. Even though I was barely getting through the day, I decided to teach meditation publicly. (I had taught privately for years, but my students were sparse.)

Going through all the basics with new students turned out to be the most amazing gift. I relearned everything, and found not only did it work for the students, it worked for me.

During my lost decade, I found incredible support as we created and built Dharma Center. (Thank you – you all know who you are!) My faith in the Teachings grew exponentially.

Of course, I would still torture myself from time to time. One day I did the math and figured if I had stayed in the tech world, I would have been on track to have earned well over a million dollars by that point. I would have been able to buy a beautiful house near bday-sunset-4webthe ocean that would provide a buffer from the world. I would have been able to write large checks to support the Teachings. And the bright minds I would have been able to mentor…Oh wait, I get to do that now!

I’ve spent nearly 20 years being poked and prodded by doctors with lots of labels but no answers. I’ve tried hundreds of remedies and diets and treatments. I still play in that world from time to time. But what has helped the most is learning to listen to my body and give it what it needs, when it needs it. (To learn more of what works for me, check out my book Peace with Pain.)

I also learned to fall gracefully, keeping in mind what my Aikido teacher showed me so many years ago: “Don’t fall, just relax and sit.” I’ve accepted that my body is high maintenance.

During all of this, I’ve also somehow learned how to look good even when I feel like crap. Apparently that is my special siddha power. So unless you spend a great deal of time with me, or if I tell you, you’d never know the condition of my body.

When I finally let go of the judgement – of everything – the most amazing thing happened. I let go of who I thought I was and who I thought others were and realized I know nothing.

I began to have timeless moments where I lived above the pain. But always, I would come tumbling back to the apparent reality of suffering. Even with these ups and downs, the illness I had judged as life-destroying and the body I had judged as weak turned out to be exactly what I needed to wake up. Once yet again, it’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about.

I don’t recommend this method of pain as a means to self-discovery as it is fraught with the pitfalls of self-pity and anger. Instead, look honesty at whatever Life has given you to work with and stretch to see what is beyond your self.

The coming and going into samadhi continued for I have no idea how long. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, it stopped – or I stopped. The doubt was gone. The suffering was gone.

TurrentArchStairs-sm
I was standing on a rock my body should not have been able to climb in its exhausted state. (I pushed my body to do it because my student wanted to see the other side of the arch, and something surged within me to make it possible.) I stood there, in my unpredictable body with all of its pleasure and pain, knowing inner peace and unconditional joy beyond all of this. To borrow from Shankara, both the rope and the snake were gone. To this day, It remains. There are no words to adequately describe it; I can only call it Grace.

After all this time, I finally get the joke when Rama sang with Zazen: “Why did the Zen Master become a Zen Master? Because he couldn’t get a job doing anything else.”

 

 

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Jenna

 

3 Short Poems

Rain Storm

Rain dowses the earth
The ground is unsettledmistymountain
Quakes, floods, mudslides
Disrupt the routine of human life
Mother is clearing away the stale energy
Wind tears through blockages
Leaving us and the trees bare

 

Loss

A friend fell over in the mud
He was long dead but stood like a sculpture
Branches framing the driveway for years
The dried wood cut and carried away
All that remains is a hole
Surrounded by petunias

 

The Endless Question

The endless question
The only question
What is Dharma?
Or, put another way:
Who is asking questions?

Awareness aware of Awareness
Playing with consciousness and perception
Feeling all there is,
All at once.
Stretching infinity into infinity
Yet within this tiny form
Of bone and blood and skin
Muscles pulsating with each breath
Existence breathes.

 

In case you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, here’s a couple more with photos I took. Enjoy!

DoorToEnlightenment    RainHaiku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jenna

Buddhist Work

Buddhists do not work to earn a living. Work, and all action, is a means to refine consciousness, smooth the rough edges of the ego, and loosen the root of suffering: attachment to identity.Buddhist Work

Of course we need to support our bodies while we live in the world, but simply fulfilling material needs and desires leads to more desires, which leads to deeper bondage. We can observe those who have succeeded on a grand scale and see fulfillment of all desire eventually leaves one feeling a deep lack. Many who have great wealth and power try to resolve this difficult to place feeling of suffering by working harder to gain even more wealth and power. The greed distorts their focus, and delusion takes hold, driving them to amass more and more material goods in a never-ending cycle of fear and satiation. Some resort to drugs and other means of distraction through the senses, essentially hiding from their very self. Even those who have not achieved significant material success fall prey to these traps.

A few take up social concerns, devoting their energy and resources to helping the less fortunate. If they avoid the temptation to see themselves as a savior, they have the potential to tap into selfless giving, which always leads to joy.

With the Buddhist approach to work, we see activity as an opportunity to learn and expand our consciousness. If possible, we’ll seek out work that challenges us, and forces the brain to stretch. Even with simple or repetitive tasks, we appraise the work to be done and consider the most efficient methods. This brain stretching exercise over time makes it easier to meditate and to hold seemingly disparate concepts in the mind. We allow our consciousness to expand so everything we do becomes an opportunity to connect with the environment and the tasks as an extension of our self, where we ultimately become the work.

Through our activity, we also jump into what I like to call the rock polisher, a device that tumbles rough and dull stones so they smash against each other until smooth and shiny. In any society, we are conditioned to see the world in a certain way. We are also born with certain personality traits. This combination of conditioning and personality traits leads to sharp edges on the ego: the part of us that digs in our heels and insists we are right. This need to be right appears in many forms, including annoyance, hurt feelings, anger, frustration, and despondency. During our interactions with others, especially in a work situation where there is not always the option to walk away without severe consequences, we pay attention to when our feathers get ruffled. Instead of reacting, we watch as the different emotions and thoughts rise to the surface and allow them to teach us about our rough edges. Simply by watching and being aware of what is happening within us, the sharp edges begin to wear away. Eventually the things that bothered us do not seem all that important.

This view of work as a process with no concern for the result leads to the loosening of the root of suffering: the attachment to identity. We all think we are someone. The difference between the average person and the Enlightened is the Enlightened don’t believe the thought, while the average person does. Work gives us the wonderful opportunity to become what others need us to be, and do whatever needs to be done in the moment. Most people approach an activity with the thought of “I want to do this” or “I don’t want to do this” and depending on the word not in that sentence, they either enjoy or despise the activity. Buddhist practice allows us to let go of the sense of “I” and see the work clearly. If we don’t have the skills, we either learn them or pass the task onto someone who does. If we find the task unpleasant, we use the opportunity to learn about the attachment that caught us. Like all attachments, if we look at it honestly without attraction or repulsion long enough, it dissolves.

Even if we have won the lottery or have a trust fund, we work. We may not call it work, but the body cannot help but act. Unless we are dissolved in the silence of meditation, we are always doing one task or another. From the Buddhist point of view, we can use these moments of work to free the mind from suffering.

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Jenna

Masks We Wear

Sometimes it’s fun to don a mask and explore what it’s like to be a particular person or Fairy-2015-10-31_2creature. On Halloween, I had a great time as a fairy behind a feather mask and shiny wings that glistened in the sunlight. Although it was early in the day and not many others were in costume, expressing the whimsical, magical part of being, complete with a pink wand with lights and sound effects, felt freeing.

These are the most wonderful types of masks we wear; the ones that free us.

Other masks are not so obvious. Names are a mask. To some, I am Jenna Sundell, and with that name comes many sub-masks: an author, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an aunt, and a chronic pain patient. The name is a mask of perfect humanness that allows others to easily relate and converse with me. To others, I am Isis – a spiritual teacher and expression of Enlightenment. This mask lets me shine Light into this world and acts as a mirror where students can see that they too are Light.

We also use causes and careers as a mask. Many years ago, I was a computer consultant. It served as a powerful mask that not only allowed me to earn an income, it also boosted my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve met many others who are wonderful crusaders for worthy causes, and they have created very detailed masks that help them succeed in their missions.

There are also masks we put on unintentionally, perhaps because we believed someone else’s opinion over our own. Or sometimes the mask provides a short term benefit by letting us get something we need. In wearing the mask, we become the victim who needs to be rescued, or the employee who has been taken advantage of, or the jilted lover, or the angry customer.

Whether the mask drowns us in misery or elevates us to ecstasy, it is still just a mask. And masks, like all things, are transitory. There is great power in a mask in that it allows us to interact with others, but at the same time there is great danger in that we easily forget we are wearing a mask.

The good news is we can choose what masks to wear, and when we tire of one or it no longer brings us joy, we can swap it out for a new one.

And when we’re ready, we can let go of all masks and dissolve into the pure Light. Ultimately, behind the mask, there is only Awareness aware of Awareness.

 

What masks do you wear?

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Why You Should Pay Spiritual Teachers Well

At some point, I don’t know where or when, I picked up the idea that spiritual teachers should teach for free, that if a spiritual teacher charged money, then it was no longer spiritual. Like I said, I don’t know where this idea came from, but it seems to be a prevalent one in this society. And it’s wrong.

Spiritual teachers teach freedom. They don’t teach for free.

In the old days, students paid for their spiritual education with food, clothing, or lodging for the teacher without the teacher having to ask. In other words, it was common knowledge that they were to take care of the spiritual teacher’s physical needs.

In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Atthakanagara Sutta: Sutta 52) we read:

“Venerable sir, these sectarians will seek a teacher’s fee for their teachers; why shouldn’t I make an offering to the venerable Ananda?”
Then the householder Dasama of Atthakanagara assembled the Sangha of bhikkhus from from Pataliputta and Vasali, and with his own hands he served and satisfied them with various kinds of good food. He presented a pair of cloths to each bhikkhu, and he presented a triple robe to the venerable Ananda, and he had a dwelling worth five hundred built for the venerable Ananda.

Somehow, this concept has been lost. Perhaps people think spiritual teachers do not eat? And they all run around naked? And sleep in the street? Maybe they forgot these things can be taken care of easily with money. I don’t know.

If we consider advanced spiritual teachers, there is nothing holding them here — other than their students. The teacher’s ego is just a sliver allowing human interaction, and even that is known to be an illusion for the benefit of the student. In meditation, the heart slows and the breath stops. What is there to bring the teacher back from the sublime state beyond thought and words, beyond the body?

Even the cries and pleas of the people who are suffering is known to be an illusion. But when a student calls to the teacher and says, “please stay, please teach me, I will support your body if you will support my practice,” then the teacher pauses. This willingness to give in exchange for spiritual teachings is a vital first step towards Liberation.River-danube-65965_1280

Yes, the river of Enlightenment flows freely – anyone can reach down to drink. To drink directly from a river, you must first be aware of the river, and then be able to reach down the side of the bank with your hands. Even then, you’ll only get a few sips at a time. (Of course, you could jump in the river, but those rare individuals have already traveled the Path.)

What a benefit to meet someone on the river of Enlightenment who has a cup, and can reach down, fill the cup and hand it to you! Isn’t that worth payment?

There’s no need for them to stay in one place, handing out their cup to passersby. They see the river, and know anyone can reach down into it. But if someone offers to take care of them, so they can offer the cup to those who are thirsty, then they will stay as long as it benefits the one taking care of them.

Now we can talk about how some teachers have cups that are cleaner, or more pure, than others, but that’s an entirely different topic. There is no doubt some teachers are more adept at sharing spiritual truth and some are more adept at marketing. However, it’s up to each student to use their discrimination to find the best cup for them.

The point remains, when you pay your spiritual teacher well, it inspires them to stay and teach the Path of Freedom. More importantly, it benefits the student. Remember, the teacher has all they need. For the body to fall away is of little consequence to the teacher, but has great ramifications for the students.

Initially, by paying the teacher, the student learns to give in exchange for something of perceived value. It’s a simple transaction, like buying a meal to nourish your body. If the student puts the teachings into practice, they begin to see there is much more going on.

Purchasing a meal provides more benefit than your own nourishment: It allows the waiter, the cook, and the restaurant owner to earn a living. It allows the delivery truck, the farmer and everyone in between to pay their bills. The simple act of buying your food creates a cascade effect that affects hundreds, if not thousands of lives. The same is true when you pay your spiritual teacher.

By supporting your teacher, the teachings and energy they transmit to you ripples through you into this world. They are able to reach thousands, if not millions, of suffering people and give them a glimpse of freedom through the words, actions, and power they share simply by living here.

And if you pay the Teacher well, then they can conserve the energy they would have spent purifying their food, clothing, and shelter by being able to provide for their physical needs with things that are not as abrasive. (If you’re not sure what I mean, spend a few nights in a run-down motel in the rough part of a city, and then visit a 5-star resort. Then compare your energy levels, how you feel mentally, physically, and what you feel capable of doing.) This extra energy can then be used to benefit the students in an even greater capacity.

In short, if you’re ready to make leaps and bounds in your spiritual practice, and not just skate by from day to day, then drop the wrong view that spiritual teachers teach for free.

Remember the truth: Spiritual Teachers teach Freedom, and you should pay them well.

 

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Jenna

 

Improve Your Brain in 2 Weeks

The benefits of meditation are best discovered through personal experience. When done correctly, meditation brings clarity, joy, and peace. Through consistent practice, the mind becomes stronger and we are able to handle the constant changes life brings with greater ease and grace.

man-meditating-481796_1280The studies have shown these positive effects can be experienced in just two weeks with a small investment of as little as five minutes a day. Western science is proving what practitioners have known since ancient times: Meditation reduces the cognitive decline that occurs with aging, it decreases stress, and it helps us process information at a faster rate. The daily practice of meditation also activates the parts of the brain associated with learning, memory, and emotional regulation. In essence meditation helps us become smarter and happier, and keeps both our brain and our relationships with ourselves and others healthy.woman-meditating-596415_1280

While I would suggest you explore meditation and find the truth of these claims through your own practice, sometimes it inspires us to read about others. If you’re still on the fence about investing time into meditation, or perhaps you’re simply having a rough day, these 8 articles and studies can help remind you of the power behind sitting in silent mind.

Although the research is still in its infancy, there are thousands of studies being done about how meditation affects the brain and our sense of well-being. Here are just a few samples of what’s been published.

Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation

Pagnoni G., Cekic M.

These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging. Read the study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17655980

 

Eight weeks to a better brain

By Sue McGreevey

The Harvard Gazette reports on a meditation study that shows meditation appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress after only eight weeks. Read the article:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

 

Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain, UCLA researchers say

By Mark Wheeler

Research suggests that meditation strengthens the connections between brain cells, allows the brain to process information faster and increases the ability to adapt to environmental changes. Read the article:
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/evidence-builds-that-meditation-230237

 

Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering

Michael D. Mrazek, Michael S. Franklin, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Benjamin Baird, Jonathan W. Schooler

After a two week study, results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences. Read the study:
http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/776

 

The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter

Eileen Luders, Arthur W. Toga, Natasha Lepore, and Christian Gaser

Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research has provided evidence for meditation-induced improvements in psychological and physiological well-being. Moreover, meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity. Read the study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184843/

 

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density

Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazara

The results suggest that participation in meditation is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. Read the study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

 

Change in Brainstem Gray Matter Concentration Following a Mindfulness-Based Intervention is Correlated with Improvement in Psychological Well-Being

Omar Singleton, Britta K. Hölzel, Mark Vangel, Narayan Brach, James Carmody, and Sara W. Lazar

A follow up of the above study, showed individuals can improve their levels of psychological well-being (PWB) through utilization of psychological interventions, including the practice of mindfulness meditation, which is defined as the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.  Read the study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3927233/

 

Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy

Eileen Luders, Nicolas Cherbuin and Florian Kurth

The findings of this study seem to suggest less age-related gray matter atrophy in long-term meditation practitioners. Read the study:
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full

RetrainYourBrain mindset-743167_1280

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My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna