Tag Archives: emotional well-being

Change Your Telomeres, Change Your Life

What’s A Telomere?

When you’re stressed—whether it’s with financial woes, relationship struggles or job problems—not only do your co-workers and friends know it, your body knows it too, all the way down to the tiny tips at the end of your chromosomes.

Those tips, called telomeres, are like the caps at the end of your shoelaces. They have the benevolent role of protecting your chromosomes from fraying, and that can influence how long you live.

But when you’re chronically stressed, those little tips can wear away and rush your aging at a rate up to 10 years faster than normal. As pioneering researcher and physician Dr. Dean Ornish writes, “…as your telomeres get shorter, your life gets shorter.”

The Good News

As startling as this revelation may be, it leads to a hopeful question: If stress can gnaw at your telomeres, can stress-reducing techniques restore them? The answer is: yes.

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD and her colleagues discovered an enzyme they named telomerase, and it can repair the telomeres that stress ravages. This discovery was so groundbreaking, that Blackburn and her team were awarded the Nobel Prize for it.

It’s been shown that with a few simple lifestyle changes, the amount of telomerase in your cells can increase in as little as 3 months. Read on to discover just a few ways you can play a part in making that happen.

3 Ways To Live Longer and Better

1. Move Your Body: Studies show that people who exercise have longer telomeres than those who don’t, even when they’re faced with extreme stress. The recommendation is to aim for 75 minutes of exercise a week. Find something you enjoy doing—like walking, swimming or dancing—and keep doing it.

2. Meditative Practice: Mindfulness meditation is all-the-rage these days and for good reason. Meditators who participated in an intensive meditation retreat increased their telomerase by 30%. If you’re new to meditation, try sitting quietly for 5-10 minutes everyday and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, simply return to your breath.

3. Good Sleep: Consistently missing sleep can send your body’s stress hormones into overdrive, and that’s likely why some studies have linked poor sleep with shortened telomeres. To replenish yourself, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.

It turns out that making a few simple changes to your daily routine can be a powerful way to take control of your stress so you can be happier, healthier and live longer. And doesn’t that feel good?


photo by: CodonAUG

Are You Connected? Establishing Happy, Healthy Relationships

 The "web of life" is a fitting metaphor for the whole of our existence because it speaks to the relationships of one thing to another and how they relate to the whole. As with any web, each strand is connected to another which is connected to another… which is connected to everything else. Connections are vital to our physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.  Connected people are happy people and what you may not be aware of is that these connections begin even before we are born. How happy we are as as adult depends on how connected we are throughout our life.  

At birth we come into the world attached to the umbilical cord that connects us to our mother – we are born connected.  In addition to the physical connectedness, the brain is hard-wired to connect with the things and people in our environment. Humans are a herd animal and, quite simply, we function better as a collective. 

Our relationships with others occurs through a process called "attachment". Children who fail to attach in the early stages of life develop problems that severely affect their quality of life. Children who were raised in orphanages where their physical needs were met but who were deprived of emotion, mental and spiritual needs necessary to form the bonds of attachment are prime examples of just how important this is. These children have difficulties recognizing social cues, learning to set appropriate boundaries, regulating emotions, acquiring coping skills and a host of other social, psychological and emotional problems. 

Attachment is largely acquired through learning. Indian people knew and understood this. After the birth of a baby, he or she was wrapped tightly in the softest deer skin and placed in a cradleboard that was padded with clumps of moss, providing a warm, soft, secure and comfortable environment in which the baby could accompany the mother as she went about daily life. From this cradleboard, the baby was a part of all aspects of tribal life as he or she learned what it was to be Indian. 

This was important on many levels but most important was that it maintained a connection between the baby and caregivers, which included all members of the tribe. A child was never set aside or placed in a crib and left to entertain and fend for him or herself. A baby has no concept of time. The baby doesn’t know if you are leaving for a minute or an eternity – only that you are leaving. What the child learns is that people leave. With that can come mistrust, fear and anxiety that can affect relationships well into the future. 

Trust is essential to the process of attachment. Connections are maintained until a child gains the confidence necessary to reinforce this understanding and knowing that we are connected to and a part of all things. To further this understanding, Indian women made a child’s first pair of moccasins with a hole in the sole. This was so the child could maintain their connection with the Mother (Mother Earth). 

People who are connected enjoy more fulfilling relationships and are more likely to be empathetic. They trust; they share more of themselves and are capable of receiving more from others. All of this enhances a relationship. Those who are disconnected are more likely to be reserved, selfish, and/or even apathetic, preventing the bonds of relationships from occurring. 

It is not too late for anyone to learn and work to establish the connections that were lost or perhaps never learned as a child and the rewards are certainly worth the effort. 

Are you happy? Are your relationships fulfilling? Are you connected?

In Spirit,

Ralph P. Brown (Tawennihake)


When The Heart Breaks Open

As human animals we naturally avoid sources of pain. All animals do, as whatever causes pain could threaten survival itself. In that very practical sense, sensing pain is a signal to move away from something. Fire burns, burns hurt, fire can kill you.

 Emotional pain hurts deeply too, with many different sources, some minor and some major. We can feel hurt if someone slights us, intentionally or unintentionally; or we can hurt if we lose our job. We can feel the pain of those who are suffering everywhere on the planet; we can hurt when we face our own certain mortality. Emotional pain also can be a practical signal to move away from the source of the pain. In only one example, if someone is emotionally abusing you, the intelligent action is to stop the abuse or to move away from the cause. The complication arises because obviously emotional pain is simply not as clear-cut as physical pain. What if we actually love the source of our emotional pain? What if it is more painful to move away from the source of the pain than to stay and feel it?

And there is the often horrific emotional pain of losing someone altogether, through death or loss of relationship. Ed and Deb Shapiro’s excellent blog last week addresses clearly ways in which you can be supported in healing from such devastating events.

There are many support and self-help groups that can assist you with your particular emotionally painful situations whatever the cause. I laud and support the care and help these groups offer.

In addition to supporting you in taking necessary steps to heal from loss or to correct abusive situations, I would like to offer a simple, yet radical, invitation: take a moment, by yourself, without fixing or avoiding the pain, and fully open to it. Allow it totally into your whole being. Give up any story or internal narrative of who’s to blame and how it could or should be or have been different. Take an instant to fully surrender inside the pain. A surrender so complete that even the word "pain" is left behind.

When the word is left behind, only an energy field remains. When you are not resisting that energy field, there is an unexpected treasure discovered. In that moment, the pain itself is a conduit to a deeper experience of love and freedom.

The situation that caused the pain may or may not be different (or in the case of death even have the possibility of being different), but the pain of the situation is no longer the problem. Then pain, or what is discovered in the willingness to fully and directly experience the energy field of "pain," is no longer a signal to avoid. It becomes a signal to take a moment and simply be completely present in the depths of your being.

At first this invitation may seem counter-intuitive. There may be a sense that you will be swallowed whole by the immensity of your emotion. Yet if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody. It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.

It is discovered freshly each time any hurt is fully and directly met, because it is out of the realm of memory, and with each discovery there is more courage for allowing pain to be an ally rather than an enemy.

If there is any emotional pain (new or old) being avoided by you now, and you accept the invitation to completely open to it, free of the story normally attached to it, what do you discover?


Gangaji will hold her next public meeting in Ashland, Oregon, August 16th. She will be in Boston for a public meeting September 12th, and in Woodstock for a public meeting September 14. She will hold a seven day retreat in Garrison, NY beginning September 16th. Read more about Gangaji’s events and catalog of books and videos online.


Effortless Decision Making

Do you ever struggle with decision-making?  Life is full of seemingly important decisions: 

  • Whether to stay in a relationship or leave
  • Whether to buy a house or rent
  • What school to go to
  • What doctor to visit
  • How to best support your children

On and on, life is filled with an endless array of decisions that seem to influence and affect our lives. Every day we are confronted with decisions that have to be made.

Interestingly, I used to have a difficult time making decisions – a really difficult time.  I would ruminate endlessly – should I do this?  Should I do that.  What about this?  What about that?  What if?  What if not?  It created a lot of angst and anxiety for me, and made me a difficult person to live with to say the least.

People tried to help me.  I saw one renowned cognitive-behavior psychologist who told me to create a pro-and-con list.  "I paid you $200 an hour to tell me to create a pro-and-con list?????"  I thought to myself.  In my experience, a pro-and-con list is utterly unhelpful and just creates more mental turbulence and trouble.  Why?

In my experience, the answer to a troubled mind is not to be found in the mind.  The inability to make a decision is simply the reflection of a restless mind.  You worry, you ruminate, you ponder as you try to make a decision.  The problem is that the more you try, the deeper the hole you dig.  The more you worry about the decision, the more endless the cycle becomes.

The solution to indecisiveness, to anxiety, to any mental health problem or difficulty is to step out of the mind.  That is right – the only solution is to go beyond the mind.

In my experience, when we struggle with decision-making, it is because we consider the universe to be outside of ourselves.  This is not a conscious thought, but it is a subconscious belief for the vast majority of people. You consider the universe to be outside of yourself, and therefore perceive that you somehow have to make some "right" decision in order to create the result you want, which is to be happy.  You believe that the mind is what allows you to make decisions, so you ruminate, weigh pro’s and con’s, and struggle to make the "right" decision, which in my experience only creates more turbulence.

For effortless decision-making, explore another possibility:
The universe is you – you simply need to listen. Apply yourself to one task – learn how to listen.  The universe is part of you – the environment is your extended body.  Everyone and everything around you is an expression of yourself.  You are not an isolated individual.  Rather, you are part of the fabric of the cosmos.
When you approach decision-making from this vantage point, you will discover that decisions make themselves.  You need quite simply to Start Listening and Stop Preventing.  Open yourself to the universe, and allow it to deliver your decisions to you.

Since the mind usually wants something to do, try this step-by-step process for effortless decision-making:
1.  Remind yourself that you are not separate from the world, and the world is not separate from you.

2.  Set an intention – "I allow myself to make the perfect decision regarding  (fill in the blank)."

3.  Let go of this intention and become receptive to what the universe sends.  Become aware of how different possibilities feel in your body.  Remind yourself that the universe will always help carry you to your goals.  Listen to the messages the universe sends your way.

Always remember – you are not limited to your body-mind.  Who you are is the expansive power of the cosmos.  As you shift your identity from small ego-mind, you will discover that decisions make themselves with effortless ease.

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