Magdala: A Love Story that has no end

January 29th, 2015

Valerie Gross

By Valerie Gross

Everyone wants more love in their life, but what does it take to generate that love? How do you become a truly loving person?

Loving others can be hard, especially in intimacy and in family. When I was child, my mother pointed to the Church for the answers, but the Jesus I learned about offered no clues, only an injunction: be good. Easy for him: he was born perfect and free of any sin. That did not help me.

Like many people, I tend to learn by example. I believe something is possible when I see, or hear of, someone else doing it, someone I can identify with in some way. “If they can do it, so can I.”

Back in the 6th century, Pope Gregory understood this. That’s why he made up the story of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. You see, the whole story of Jesus, as conveyed in the four Gospels, failed to include a single example of a sinner meeting Jesus, being healed, and then staying around and leading a healed life. Now, the Bible also tells us that Mary Magdalene was a powerful individual, especially compared to most women in Antiquity. Free of her person and thoughts, not dependent on any man, she chose to walk with Jesus, and support him and the disciples with her own money. She stayed to the bitter end of Jesus’ crucifixion, and all four Gospels agree: she was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, she was a very important person. Not easy for an every-day person to relate to.

So Pope Gregory added a prequel to Mary’s story: she was a sinner, a prostitute, who had come to be blessed by Jesus and stayed around to become this special person. As a prostitute held the lowest status in society at the time, her redemption was an invitation to all to come, and be welcomed and redeemed. You could not be worse than her. You had a chance.

But today that story has lost its power, in large part because we no longer understand the power of Mary’s role as Witness to the Resurrection. In the 6th century, Mary Magdalene was revered and adored across Europe. Today, she is just another sinner, mingling with tax-collectors and thieves, whom Jesus welcomed to his table.

Well, I still needed my role model. The challenge then for me, in writing Magdala, was to come to understand both Jesus and Mary Magdalene as becoming the extraordinary people who revolutionized the world. From inner life to geo-politics, nothing has been the same since they walked the earth.Magdala

In studying the actual physical world in which they lived, I was amazed to discover the ordinariness of horrific brutality in everyday life. The Roman Empire controlled Israel with its powerful army, which answered to no one. The local Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, would just as soon meet with his constituents as have them slaughtered on the steps of his palace while they waited to be seen. Local farmers sometimes had to trade on their children’s lives when they could not afford the crushing taxes. And without a man to speak for her, a woman was subject to rape, enslavement, or – worse?! – banishment, which meant starvation and death. (This is the context, by the way, of Jesus’ injunction against divorce. In today’s language it means: don’t throw your wife to the wolves.)

And yet somehow, in this fractured, violent world, Jesus and Mary created a language of peace and love that has endured for millennia. Somehow, in this tribal, strictly segregated society, they built an enduring legacy of inclusion and community. Somehow, in the midst of hunger and poverty and guerrilla warfare, they sparked a fire of hope and courage and faith that yet burns.
It took seven years for me to imagine how that happened. The result is Magdala. May it speak to your peace-seeking heart, as it inspired mine in writing it.

*******Magdala is available as a paperback or in digital format through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and via www.magdalathebook.com.

Goddess Calling Foreword

January 27th, 2015

81JYuKkC2WL By Dr. Rev. Karen Tate, author of Goddess Calling

In ever-increasing numbers women and men are seeking spirituality beyond traditional religious institutions and more and more their new normal includes the deities, ideals and archetypes of the Sacred Feminine. They have a desire to get beyond the patriarchal dogma that often perpetuates sexism, homophobia and the domination of Gaia and all her inhabitants, including the body of Mother Earth. Women in particular are hearing and heeding their calling, stepping forth to take on their mantle of leadership as rabbis, ministers, priestesses, Nuns on the Bus and Womanpriests. They are exercising their spiritual authority in circles at their kitchen tables, in their living rooms and classrooms, in brick and mortar churches and temples, in political arenas and groves. They are flexing their spiritual wings and allowing themselves to be guided by their intuition, innate female wisdom and inner-knowing and they encourage their congregations to know and feel the essence of Goddess and understand what that new knowledge might mean for themselves personally and the world.

Often their shared message is one of female empowerment, social justice and environmental responsibility sometimes referred to as eco-feminist spirituality. The liturgy may contain social, cultural and political messages of liberation thealogy using Goddess mythology, archetypes and metaphors as benchmarks and templates for a more just and sustainable future. Gone altogether or tempered is the message of the strict authoritarian Father whose mythology gives license for a male-dominated society with women in a subordinate role. Nothing less than peace, partnership, justice, equality and care for the planet are at the heart of this Sacred Feminine wisdom.

In answer to this collective call to restore and re-write our values and find a new spiritual path women and men are blazing a trail using their pink handled machetes to find their way. It might manifest in progressive churches using gender neutral names for God in prayer and song. Others include liturgy embracing the Divine Mother in equal partnership alongside the Father. Altars might not be dominated only by male images. Still others give themselves permission to conduct women-only services and exhibit only female images of deity at their gatherings. Congregants worship together in circles rather than in hierarchal configurations with a male intermediary between them and deity. In fact, these groups and gatherings might be leaderless, egalitarian or organizers might share leadership. In case it’s not obvious, there is no one way and no absolute right way to facilitate these gatherings or to worship or interpret deity. These are just some of the new guidelines being tried across the globe as spiritual people come forward to see what works for themselves or their communities.

Yes, there has been a plethora of academic writings restoring knowledge of Goddess and women’s history that has been swept beneath the rug. Some, myself included, have used this knowledge to occasionally re-construct or adapt ancient rituals for a modern context. We have gleaned inspiration from inscriptions and ancient knowledge and turned it into the seasonal ritual. Psychologists have explored the significance of Goddess archetypes. Theologians have examined why Goddess disappeared and patriarchy began to dominate. Some statistics show that when all earth-based or goddess-oriented groups are combined, Pagan, or non-Abrahamic religions is one of the fastest growing groups in the country and books have come out in equal measure to support that growing interest.

What has been missing, however, is an abundance of inspirational writings that pulls all of these aforementioned areas of focus together between two covers and puts it into an easy-to-understand and user-friendly book of sacred feminine liberation thealogy. Yes, thealogy, not theology. The meaning of Goddess, as deity, archetype and ideal and her relationship to humanity, the planet and its species. Going beyond the wheel of the year, examining Goddess mythology and ideals of the Sacred Feminine that would reshape values, society and culture, from cradle to grave, and in pre-school to the voting booth. Goddess ideals actually do provide a template for a more just and sustainable future and with this book, I hope I’ve managed to directly connect the dots between the Great She and liberation from the oppression of our patriarchal world.

I wrote Goddess Calling, Inspirational Messages & Meditations to Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy to give individuals or those desiring to serve their communities a springboard to offer what I remember were called “sermons from the pulpit” in my early days as a Catholic, with ideas to create a format for a regular gathering or service. Easy to digest and sometimes gently following the seasons of the year and holidays already on most people’s calendars, these messages and meditations use Goddess archetypes, ideals and mythology to provide content for education, inspiration and contemplation for anyone seeking to incorporate a feminine face of god within their spirituality, no matter their faith – and the messages and meditations have been field-tested!

Following in one of the messages within this book, Trust in the Journey, these collective words of inspiration and guidance accumulated over time as I was called on as an ordained minister to speak about the Sacred Feminine. Yes, these messages and meditations have already been successfully shared and embraced by congregations where I have been invited to present papers, guest minister or lead salons or services for conferences, festivals, Goddess temples, Unitarian Universalist congregations, the American Academy of Religion or at Sacred Sundays, the latter being inter-faith services offered in the Los Angeles community for several years. Those experiences have provided the framework for this book and the suggestions herein for readers to find personal inspiration or ready-made material to facilitate your community circles.

As you go forward and find your sacred roar,

May Goddess Embrace You in Her Golden Wings,

Dr. Rev. Karen Tate

Posttraumatic Growth

January 25th, 2015

9512680-girl-tourist-in-mountain-read-the-map-map-journeyAccording to Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) posttraumatic growth is:

“the experience of positive change that occurs as the result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances” (p. 1).

Examples of posttraumatic growth may be a greater appreciation for the value of life, increased belief in knowing that you can count on people in times of trouble, an enhanced sense of closeness with others, a greater belief in one’s ability to handle difficulties, putting more effort into relationships, and having more meaningful interpersonal relationships (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). Examples of highly challenging life circumstances where posttraumatic growth may occur include the death of a loved one, job loss, ending a romantic relationship, serious illness, or an unexpected accident.

I’ve recently started to research posttraumatic growth and a few interesting components of the phenomenon include:

1.) Struggle
2.) Highly challenging life circumstances
3.) Experience of positive change

Interestingly enough, the experience of positive change would not be possible without the struggle or highly challenging life circumstances. I am not trying to diminish the significance of traumatic events. While going through a death of a loved one, job loss, or end of a romantic relationship, it is normal and understandable that we would experience pain, hurt, and deep sadness. Grieving these losses puts us in touch with our humanity and allows time to feel how truly important these people and events are or were to our lives. During this time of feeling our sadness and grieving the loss of what was; or what could have been, we should nurture ourselves and trust ourselves that we are doing the right thing.

The struggle we go through during these incredibly difficult times can have value. They can add meaning and greater understanding to our life. The struggle that occurs during highly challenging life circumstances is also capable of helping us develop qualities, capabilities, and desires that would not be possible to develop in the presence of easy or comfortable conditions.

Posttraumatic Growth is not a new concept. It has it’s roots in spiritual texts. For example, Romans 5: 3-5 states:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope… 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Peace,
Matthew Welsh
Founder of Spiritual Media Blog

Why Would a Man Search for the Goddess?

January 22nd, 2015

bookcoverBy Tim Ward

Why would a man search for the Goddess? Especially a guy like me?

“Oh, I get it! You’re getting in touch with your feminine side!” my friends say.

No, I have to laugh. It’s just the opposite. It’s the darkest part of my masculinity that yearns for her, like a lost lover, like an orphaned child. It is as if a ghost touched me on the shoulder and as I turned she disappeared. Her shadow lured me deeper into the unknown than the gods of my fathers ever did. Jesus and Buddha, they urged me away from the world, taught me to resist the ways of the flesh and seek a Kingdom of God, heaven, nirvana, a higher consciousness. It’s different with her. It’s visceral, immediate, a matter of the heart, balls and belly.

I caught my first glimpse of her in India as Kali, the black goddess who is both Mother and Destroyer. Her statues there have four arms. The upper right is raised in blessing; the lower right is extended, palm out, as if offering a gift. But the upper left holds a bloody machete and the lower left a freshly severed human head. I once asked one of her devotees how one could get the blessing and escape the machete.

“No, that’s not the point,” she replied fiercely. “The blessing is only won when you accept both sides of Kali, including pain, sorrow, loss and death. The real death is trying to hold your tiny ego safe from the pain caused by desire and love. Flee from the dangers of life, and you will miss her blessings too. But embrace Kali as she is, kiss her bloody tongue and feel all four arms around you, and then you have life, you have freedom. This, my young friend, is Kali’s boon.”

On the slum streets of Calcutta, Kali’s holy city, littered with human misery and despair, I felt those four arms embrace me once, just for an instant. When I returned to North America after six years living in Asia, it struck me as strange that we in the West worship only a masculine God. It was not always so. In ancient times, men and women worshipped a pantheon of both gods and goddesses. The Greeks had Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, Demeter, and a host of others. All around the Mediterranean, goddesses appeared as primordial creators, protectors, and powerful forces of nature and fertility right back to the dawn of writing. Thousands of prehistoric statues of women have been unearthed in excavations across Europe back to the Stone Age. Only in the past 1,600 years has Western civilization embraced the religion of the Father as the one and only God. Today, many women are experiencing a spiritual rejuvenation by rediscovering the goddesses of the ancient world. index

But why not men? These were once our goddesses, too. I wondered what we men might have lost when we turned our backs on the feminine divine, and how this has affected us both spiritually and in our relationships with flesh-and-blood women. I believe we men have a deep need to connect with women, which for most of us remains profoundly thwarted. This vague feeling that things are out of sync with the opposite sex rumbles around inside of us, mixes with sexual frustration, resentment, anxiety, anger and despair. I felt this even after my encounters with Kali in India convinced me to embrace life passionately. All four of the long-term relationships I had before the age of 35 – including one marriage – ended not just badly, but wretchedly.

As things got worse, I could feel animosity towards my beloved growing at the very same time I was trying to “work” on the relationship. “Why does it have to be so hard?” I found myself asking again and again.
How often we liken the woman we love to a goddess, and how often when the illusion shatters, we turn on her and call her a bitch …

It’s all too easy for men to blame women, as if they are the cause of our suffering. Our myths pin it on the first woman: Eve who conned Adam into disobeying God and got them both thrown out of Eden; or Pandora who opened the jar and released all strife and woe. For thousands of years women have borne the brunt of this blame, taken out on them in oppression, abuse, rape, genital mutilation, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, incest, violence, and murder.

One of the toughest parts of writing my own book, Savage Breast, has been facing my own repressed anger towards women, which came to the surface as I confronted images of goddesses from ages past. My true feelings had been camouflaged well. To speak and write about them honestly has been difficult. Was this just me, I wondered, or was I beginning to uncover a larger link between men’s disconnection from the feminine divine and our animosity towards women? Some male readers of my draft manuscript objected to my describing men’s anger towards women in generalized terms. Yet many women readers told me male anger towards women was something too obvious to mention.

Psychologist Dorothy Dinnerstein claims that “the hate, fear, loathing, contempt and greed that men express towards women so pervades the human atmosphere that we breathe them as casually as the city child breathes smog.” She concludes that most of us are so desensitized, we are scarcely aware of it at all.

Before work on my book, Savage Breast, began, I suppose I too would have rejected the idea I harbored such negative feelings towards women. But in hindsight I can see this animosity in action whenever I have lashed out at an individual woman. We may expunge the biases against women from our laws, change the way we talk, the way we joke, share the household chores, but if we men fail to address this subterranean anger at its root, I believe our desire for intimate connections with women will be thwarted still.

***********
Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World by Rev.Dr Karen Tate is being published by Changemakers Books in November 2014. ISBN: 978-1-78279-510-0 (Paperback) £13.99 $24.95, EISBN: 978-1-78279-509-4 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99

How to Find Your Soulmate Without Settling

January 22nd, 2015

cito-7wk-10-2013-300x250Do you ever feel like you have a soulmate out there you just haven’t met yet?

Bestselling author Katherine Woodward Thomas, MA, MFT, has developed a powerful and proven process for finding your soulmate that she wants to share with you in this free online seminar.

With so many relationship courses out there, it’s rare that I come across one that feels genuinely life-changing or that has such an extraordinary track record of success.

There are even spiritual luminaries, including Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, and Neale Donald Walsch who rave about Katherine and the Calling in “The One” approach.

Make this the year you look back on as the year you “called in” your soulmate.

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by CLICKING HERE.

Make a bigger impact in the world (without adding to your to-do list)

January 20th, 2015

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Power

January 17th, 2015

hrcover(5)By Shai Tubali

If we could take the deepest and most intense look into our psyche, in search of its one driving force, what would we see at the core? What would a perception that has managed to pierce through all the defenses and sophistications of the mind unveil as the spring from which our entire streams of psychological motions diverge and rush onwards? Is there one force out of which the manifold psychological behaviors and actions of man come into being – one source for all man’s desires and fears, pains and torments, ecstasies and elevations, attractions and repulsions, beliefs and yearnings?

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed with all his heart that he had chanced upon such a force. Ecstatically inspired, he therefore dedicated a large portion of his tireless studies and writings to establish this through philosophical, biological and psychological arguments and evidence.

As Nietzsche’s treatises deepened and matured, the notion of a unitary essential drive that encompasses not only the human psyche but the entire dynamics of life and the cosmos crystallized in his mind. Nietzsche was thrilled to tap into a force that enkindles every organism on the planet and even the silent matter of the universe; a particular force that makes atoms bind to form molecules as well as makes us react and behave the way we react and behave. This element, he claimed, activates everything and the human, being a product of natural evolution, cannot be outside of its dominion. This fundamental proved to be, as literary scholar Jurgen Nirad puts it, Nietzsche’s principal statement about life and the world, and accordingly the pivot of the comprehensive theory towards which he strove.

About sixty years before Nietzsche first referred to his newly discovered unitary driving force, his predecessor and mentor, another German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer, had too set before him the mission to decode the mystery of life’s primordial motive. Schopenhauer, probably more melancholic than ecstatic, had formulated the idea, inspired by the forefather of Buddhism Gautama the Buddha, that the one primordial desire behind the whole of life is the will to live, the will for self-preservation and continuity. To him, this had been an actual metaphysical, all-directing element. Naturally, this will gives rise to desires that bring about suffering to their possessors. Since life is will, and will is suffering, there’s no real escape from this predicament. The only ‘way out’ is for man to maintain a rather ascetic way of living, as much as he can, and strive to attain the state of the ‘negation of will’.

In many respects, Nietzsche’s own drive was the outcome of his inner dialogue and argument with Schopenhauer. At first Nietzsche had admired Schopenhauer’s image and stance, and even dedicated an entire essay to him in his Untimely Meditations, entitled ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’. However, with the passing of time he could no longer accept what he realized to be an extremely limited view of the force of life. In 1880 he began to speak of the ‘desire for power’ in his The Wanderer and his Shadow, then in Daybreak, and then in a more expanded form, in The Gay Science. In Beyond Good and Evil he goes as far as warning against the metaphysical notion of the will to live: Physiologists should think again before positing the drive to self-preservation as the cardinal drive in an organic being. A living thing wants above all to vent its strength – life itself is the will to power: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of it. In short, here as everywhere be on your guard against superfluous teleological principles! – such as is the drive to self-preservation.

As we can see, Nietzsche deliberately replaced the ‘will to live’ with the ‘will to power’, as if to emphasize the overcoming of his mentor’s previous statement. For him, the struggle for existence was more than just a simple Darwinian survival; it was, as the 19th century evolutionary anti-Darwinist William Rolph put it, a struggle for the increase of life and not merely a struggle for life. In his Gay Science Nietzsche powerfully writes: The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life which aims at the expansion of power and, wishing for that, frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation… In nature it is not conditions of distress that are dominant but overflow and squandering, even to the point of absurdity. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the lifewill. The great and small struggle always revolves around superiority, around growth and expansion, around power – in accordance with the will to power which is the will of life.

Nietzsche’s most elementary logic in negating the will to live is that it simply makes no sense that an organism would wish only to survive, since it is already alive. As soon as it comes into being, based on the already existing grounds of being alive, it wants so much more – more life, more of itself, more strength and more control. Everyone living already survives, and when an organism only wishes to survive this means that its will has been dramatically reduced: this is its most minimal state and greatest level of weakening – in other words, the will to power in its most limited form.

********

Shai Tubali is a published author and international speaker who specializes in the field of self-transformation. He lives in Germany. The Journey to Inner Power is published by Changemakers Books, ISBN: 978-1-78279-713-5 (Paperback) £11.99 $20.95, EISBN: 978-1-78279-712-8 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99.

8 Steps to Stop Dying Every Day and Start Waking Up

January 15th, 2015

Temple-hi-res1-150x150Excerpted and adapted from When Did You Die? By Temple Hayes

Do you remember being a little kid and dancing to the song The Hokey Pokey, putting different parts of yourself into it and then being asked to “put your whole self in?” Remember how good it felt to shake your body and turn around? You were present,
alive, and awake! Isn’t that what life is all about?

You put your whole self in! This really is what life is all about, but why do so few of us put our whole selves in?

When we are children we innately live in the moment by putting our whole selves in. I remember a number of years ago I visited a friend of mine and a four year old child was there asking me to dance with her. I got on my knees so we could be closer to the same height and we proceeded to dance. We were pretending to be Tom and Sally out for the evening immersed in this beautiful dance. Each time we completed the song, Kayleigh would say, “Let’s do it again.” Without hesitation she was putting her whole self in. By this point, my knees were having thoughts of their own and were longing for this experience to be behind us. The next morning I asked Kayleigh if she would like to play the part of Tom and Sally and dance some more and she didn’t connect at all with what I was saying. To her that experience was yesterday. It was not significant any more nor was it relevant. It was an experience which
was behind her.

She had put her whole self in the day before and no reason to recall it nor relive it again.

This is the way we naturally are destined and designed to be in our day to day lives. We are literally meant to go from experience to experience and put our whole selves in. Yet what happens is most of us are walking through life disconnected and drained and rarely present for what is occurring NOW. We are toting all of the past on our backs and shoulders, recalling all the Toms and Sallys in our lives who have either wronged us, or shamed us, or they didn’t do it right. We are aiming to continue dancing through each day of life with all this weight on our hearts and mind while not being able to be truly impassioned and energized in this day and this moment.

So what needs to happen for us to make the shift? Decide now, today, this moment with every encounter you are going to put your whole self in. If you are at a restaurant with friends put your phone away, if you are going on your first date – be you and share who you really are rather than holding back and editing most of the things you share, and if you are facing a fear truly face it rather than replace it and keep walking forward in the direction of your life.

Put your whole self in. As you get into this practice and it becomes habit three things will occur.

1) You will have more energy

There’s a story of a guy riding a bicycle up hill and he is really struggling. What he doesn’t realize is that he is driving with his brakes on. The energy it is taking for him to move forward while at the same time “being locked in place” is likened to a person who wants to move forward yet is holding on to past sorrow, or the people they perceived have done harm against them or energies of regret and disappointment.

2) You will be more empowered

Putting your whole self in the moment requires a practice of being able to say who you are and be what you feel. If you are committed to being a person who does not carry around past luggage from yesterday then you will be able to travel lightly as you go from place to place and person to person for you are being true to yourself. Just the simple and profound commitment to speak and live the real you will change your energy level dramatically.

3) Freedom is gifted to you and to others

You are able to truly put your whole self in first and not wait until you turn yourself around just like the order of the song. When you put your whole self in and allow your energy to change which will change your life, an amazing and incredible thing happens. You feel better, you like the feelings and thoughts you are having, and you have people saying to you all the time, “How do you have so much energy?” The wonder of this is oddly enough you are able to give the same permission to others in your life. You begin to see them as whole rather than broken, possible instead of impossible, and life becomes a new playing field. You wake up one morning and you are truly free from your own self- bondage. when-did-you-die-book-cover-150x150

This inner dialogue moves from being a thought into a feeling and finally a realization. Your whole self – you begin to measure it daily in your work, with your families and loved ones, with the moments of silence and retreat you gave yourself.

Begin this amazing, enlightening practice. Affirm before every event – I am putting my whole self in and reflect at the end of the day, did I do it? Did I put my whole self in? If not, how can I make more of an effort tomorrow?

This is your moment – begin now. Put your whole self in! Be Life!

Temple Hayes is the author of When Did You Die? 8 Steps to Stop Dying Every Day and Start Waking Up (HCI Books)

The Ultimate Guide to Meditation

January 1st, 2015

imagesBy Lars King

Meditation. What is it? We’ve all heard of it. Maybe you’ve tried it a few times, or if you’re truly dedicated to it, you do it every day. Meditation is one of the best things you can do for yourself, as it has the potential to transform your life.

The first thing we need to do is clear up some common misconceptions. It is not strictly a “Buddhist” or “Hindu” religious activity, although those religions incorporate meditation into their beliefs. In fact, every major religion incorporates some form of meditation in their teachings. If you don’t like the name “meditation,” just go with “quieting the mind” or “mindfulness.”

Scientific studies have shown that dozens of positive effects come from meditation. Over 3000 studies in the last few years have shown that meditation improves happiness levels, decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, increases attention span, relieves depression, etc. If you click here, you will be able to see dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies that demonstrate the incredible benefits of meditation.

There are powerful inner aspects to meditation. A key realization that you will come to as a result of meditation is that you are not your thoughts. You are the awareness behind your thoughts, the “watcher” that notices them.

There are many different ways to meditate. You can should sit cross legged with your eyes open, you can sit in a chair with your eyes closed, lie down, etc. You should meditate in whatever way you want as long as you’re relaxed and not going to fall asleep during the practice.

When meditating, there are very few rules. The goal is to quiet the constantly chattering mind and simply be at peace, allowing yourself to be in the present moment. That’s it. It sounds simple, but as we all know, what’s simple is not necessarily easy.

Once you start meditating, your mind will begin to wander. You will think of what you need to do later on that day, something that happened earlier, etc. This will happen often in the beginning of your practice. A common experience is getting frustrated at yourself for thinking so much, which is unhelpful. Accept that many thoughts will cross your mind during meditation and just let them float by.

Visualization can be really helpful during meditation. I like to visualize a pool of water, and when a thought comes by, the pool of water ripples outwards until the pool is still again. Try whatever works for you. Some people imagine a clear blue sky, and when a thought appears, they see it as a cloud that quickly disintegrates.

For beginners, listening to guided meditations is very helpful. Eventually, you will be able to just be at peace, without many thoughts entering your mind. This allows you to go deeper and deeper into your meditation, giving you a profound sense of relaxation and happiness. Remember, this takes much practice, and you need to fully accept wherever you’re at in your journey.

You have to make meditation a priority in your life; otherwise it simply won’t become a habit. While meditating every once in a while is good, it won’t make much of a difference in your life unless you commit to it and do it daily.

Starting off, you don’t need to commit a lot of time to meditation. To just get the habit started, start off with five or ten minutes daily. It helps if you can incorporate this into your morning or nightly routines so that it can become a habit more easily.

The habit of meditation is not something that you will necessarily notice immediate improvements from. Patience is key here. It takes a couple months of daily practice to noticeably shift your awareness and increase the level of presence and peace you have in your daily life. I can assure you that it is completely worth the time spent, and anyone who’s been meditating for months would agree.

I’ve personally had some amazing experiences while meditating. Many times, indescribable positive emotions flow through me. Flashes of insight and unique ideas come to me. Each time I meditate, I can go for longer and longer periods of time without having any thoughts come up. I promise that you can get to this point and much farther if you commit to a daily practice.

Whenever I talk to people who have been meditating for years, I notice that they are all very calm, and fully present. They seem at peace with themselves and the world. They rarely, if ever, worry about things. These people seem to realize that worrying is mentally creating a possible negative future that doesn’t have any basis in the present moment. These people usually don’t have much of an ego, as they have realized that the ego is just another mental concept.

I started meditating sporadically a few years ago, when I was in high school. I had read about the benefits, and wanted to see for myself. I meditated whenever I could remember to do so, and when I did, thoughts would flood my mind and I was never at peace. I gave up on it for the time being, until I read that the only way for me to receive real benefits from meditation was if I did it daily. I started to do just that, and made meditation a large priority in my life. I have not looked back since. I’m now noticing many positive results in my life, and I have no doubt in my mind that meditation will continue to improve my life more and more as time goes on. In your meditation practice, remember this quotation by spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti, “Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.”

Since I’m so passionate about how meditation can change anyone’s life, I decided to spread meditation to as many people as possible. I wanted everyone to get a chance to experience the benefits for themselves. I created a meditation service that sends you the world’s best meditation videos for only $5 a month. Check it out at Daily Meditation!

It’s a Wonderful Life movie review

December 21st, 2014

lifeIt’s a Wonderful Life continues to touch people’s heart and soul year after year with its message of love. Many movie critics ripped it apart when it was released. But, it is arguably the most successful movie ever made. The director of the film, Frank Capra, believed in the inherent goodness of life and humanity. This was not easy considering his career as a filmmaker took place during the Depression and World War II. His belief that people are basically good inspires hope.

Another valuable message of his film is the importance of the love between family and friends, both seen and unseen. During George Bailey’s (James Stewart) dark night of the soul, he looks over a bridge and contemplates suicide. At that moment a guardian angel in training, Clarence, enters into his life. This reminds us that in our darkest hour, the power of love — even from sources unknown to us — is transformative and can bring us out of our moments of despair.