Tag Archives: Generosity

A Lesson in Happiness and Love I Learned from Rob Lowe

rob-lowe-300x150I’m not a particular fan (or not) of Rob Lowe, but several people had recommended his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, so I decided to read it.

It was very interesting for many reasons, and I was particularly struck by a story Lowe told, recalling a visit to the White House during his time on the show The West Wing: Continue reading

Finding ‘True Refuge’ in the Face of Loss and Ego

true refugeKim, Seoku Jong, the reporter for the Kyungyang Shinmun, one of Korea’s major daily newspapers, recently interviewed me about my book True Refuge, which is now available in Korean. Since most of my readers won’t be able to read the article in Korean, I wanted to share the interview with you hear.

KSJ: How are you doing? Please tell us what interests you most these days.

TB: My mother, who lives with us, recently went into home hospice care. What interests me is that when we face the truth of mortality—that these lives can pass like a dream, that we will each lose those who are dear—what most matters is love. At the end of our lives, the question that will be central is, “Did I love well?” It’s clear that the more we remember to live this moment, here and now, in a loving, awake way, the more our lives will be truly aligned with our values and our heart.

I’m deeply saddened to be losing my mom – she is a wonderful being, filled with generosity, humor, and kindness. She meditates, as do my siblings, and by being together in the present moment, by loving without holding back, this time of sorrow is also a time of great beauty. This experience is, to me, possible throughout our lives. If we can remember what most matters to us, our lives will be vibrant, creative, loving, and beautiful.

KSJ: The world is full of suffering and it doesn’t seem to end. No one is free from suffering. Your book introduces to readers the moving stories of people who managed to heal themselves despite their wounds, and to a number of meditation methods that can be applied for the liberation from suffering. If you can briefly summarize the essence of True Refuge, what it would be?

TB:While the pain and loss that is part of life will continue, we each have the capacity to free ourselves from the suffering of feeling threatened, separate, or deficient. This becomes possible when we can see past our story of egoic self and contact the deeper truth and fullness of who we really are. The essence of each of us is loving presence – an awareness that is pure, wakeful, and boundless. This is our True Refuge. Those who have healed themselves with meditation have learned to pay attention in a way that has carried them home to loving presence, our true nature.

A key part of finding this True Refuge of loving presence is bringing a kind and mindful attention to all the expressions of our egoic self. We don’t find True Refuge by eliminating the ego; we come home when, like the ocean, we embrace all the waves that arise from our Being. In a very real way, this means embracing the aggression and defensiveness, the insecurities and hurts. What we don’t love controls us. Yet, as we enfold more and more of our experience in acceptance and love, we realize the freedom and vastness of our awakened heart.

KSJ: What is false refuge, and how is it different from True Refuge? And why is it so important to have True Refuge?

Being human is challenging. We’re aware of the dangers we face—rejection, failure, disease, loss, death—and our habit is to try to control whatever we can. A false refuge is a control strategy that might give temporary relief, but in the long run does not serve us. For example, we might overeat to soothe our anxiety or to feel some gratification, but we then feel ashamed or gain unhealthy weight. We might work very hard to prove ourselves worthy, but become overly busy and neglect our loved ones. We might brag or exaggerate to get others approval, but inwardly feel like a fake. All these false refuges actually take us farther from the experience of being at home with ourselves, secure in the essential goodness of who we are.

To be continued…

 

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How to make the New Year a YOU Year (Vlog)

On Intent.com, intentions are set by the community year-round to fulfill personal goals, reach for our dreams and realize our inner potential. What many tend to forget is that the most important step in reaching for the starts is reaching inward, giving ourselves the love and care we need in order to go forth. Whether it’s January 1st or any day of the year, there isn’t one day or moment that isn’t bettered when I take the time I need for me – it makes me a better friend, a better partner, a better daughter, and a better person all around when I have a full tank of my own from which to give to the world around me. Though it may be counter-intuitive, it’s giving myself the love and care I need that’s makes it much easier for me to do my favorite thing in the world: loving and caring for others.

Tell me how you plan to give yourself a little extra lovin’ in the New Year in the comments box below!

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Like Laura’s post? Support these similar intents on Intent.com!

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A Million Reasons to Volunteer This 4th of July

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 10.40.44 PMBy Levi Newman

I’d like to believe that most of us are actively looking for ways to live healthier, more meaningful lives. It may be a “glass half full” way to view life, but to me you should always be looking to do more with the time you have. That’s why I think we should become more responsible citizens of this planet by finding ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Think about it; we’re always asking for help from dieticians, aestheticians, yoga instructors and life gurus, but how often do we ask what we can do for someone else? I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’ve been using to fill my own health and wellness needs—it’s called volunteering.

Wait, you mean you’ve heard of it? Okay, you caught me, it’s not a secret, but it is amazingly good for you!

There are a million and one reasons to volunteer at either a local or global level, but let’s focus on just a few. For starters, people who volunteer are linked to having better mental, physical and emotional health. According to a study by the UnitedHealth Group and Optum Institute, 76 percent of people surveyed said volunteering made them feel physically healthier, while another 78 percent reported lower stress levels. Researchers at the London School of Economics have even found a correlation between the amount you volunteer and the chances you’ll have of being “very happy.” In essence, the more you volunteer, the happier you become.

Of course, I don’t need statistics to tell me that if I trimmed my waistline and dropped some stress that I’d be a lot happier.

Did you also know that people who volunteer are more likely to land paid employment? In fact, people who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to find a job according to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Looks like all that time you spent passing out meals on Thanksgiving could pay even more dividends than you imagined.

Let’s not forget the social aspect. Your selfless service helps your community grow and come together. In today’s society we can sometimes lose those close ties because of social media, so it’s imperative that we build strong bonds with those around us. And while making new friends, expanding your social network (hooray for jobs!) and even boosting your interpersonal skills are important facets, we’re not even scratching the surface of the benefits of volunteering.

We’ve talked all about the selfish—in a good way—reasons we should volunteer, but let’s talk about how volunteering our valuable time affects those in need.

The single most important thing you provide those you serve is hope, and even a little hope inspires. Giving your time, time you may have otherwise wasted on some mundane, forgettable task, could have been time used to inspire someone that may have all but given up on life. It doesn’t matter if it’s volunteering at a food bank like Feeding America, or rebuilding communities around the globe with Team Rubicon, the point is that you’re providing a service to people that truly need help.

Volunteering is one of the few activities on earth that benefits the givers as much as the recipients. That’s why when you’re looking to take on a new hobby, project or adventure, choose something that can impact someone’s life in a positive way. It doesn’t matter if you decide to start down the street at a local church, or choose to take on the big jobs with the United Nations, know that you’re making the right decision.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we’re all looking to be happier people living more fruitful lives, I challenge you to take those words and volunteer to be that change. Here’s hoping I see you out there.

* * *

-1Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri, currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals.

What The Buddha Might Say To Bill Gates

Bill Gates by Tristan Nitot“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” – Buddha

Bill Gates is a rare breed. He defies what most billionaires appear to be: trapped in the hoarding of money with a large dose of poverty mind. While most people are obsessed with getting money, Gates wants to give it away.

By the time he was 32, Gates was a billionaire. In May this year he was declared the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $72 billion. He stopped working at Microsoft five years ago in order to focus on using that money to make the world a better place. He and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with investor Warren Buffet. The primary aims of the foundation are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. To begin, Gates is committed to ending polio by 2018, with tuberculosis and malaria to follow.

Although, obviously, few of us have money to spare like Gates or Buffet, and it is easy to applaud them while feeling useless ourselves, it doesn’t mean we can’t give or help another in need, using whatever means we have.

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.” – Buddha

We were in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, in northern India, attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings. It was crowded, cold, and very uncomfortable sitting close together on mats on a concrete floor. Deb was longing to go back to our hotel room so she could meditate quietly on her own when the Dalai Lama started talking about the dangers of solitary peace. He spoke of how tempting it can be to want to be on our own, but how easily this can disengage us from the reality around us. That it is vital to be in communication, engaged in giving, sharing and caring for each other.

Wise spiritual teachers from all traditions have taught how the path of service is the most important of all, as it means we are less self-obsessed; through caring for others we can step out of indulgence and into big-heartedness, releasing any sense of separateness.

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.” – Buddha

The generosity Gates is sharing is not the stuff many rich people are made of. It can be very difficult to give when you have so much, as it incites tremendous fear of loss. We only have to look at the upper 1% of this country to see how greed and selfishness rule the day, as they hide their money in offshore accounts, avoid paying fair taxes, and have little time for the poor or needy.

When we feel uncomfortable with generosity we get stuck in our limitations and fear. When we appreciate the joy of kindness our life is transformed. We can both give and receive. Such ego-less moments are exquisite!

We may think we have little to offer but whether it is a few pennies or a whole bankroll, a cup of tea or a banquet is irrelevant—it is the act of giving itself that is important. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, although life changes are inevitable we can initiate personal change so that we rise to the challenge and become a bigger and better person as a result. As Mahatma Gandhi also said, “Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.”

“Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have!” – W. Clement Stone

As one of our teachers, Sri Swami Satchidananda taught: “Who is the most selfish person? It is the one who is most selfless! Why? Because by being selfless, you will always retain your happiness. A selfish person can never be really happy. So to be happier, be more selfless!”

I slept and dreamt that life was joy

I awoke and saw that life was service

I acted and behold, service was joy. 

Rabindranath Tagore

* * *

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For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com

Why Spontaneous Kindness Feels So Sexy

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 11.40.04 AMThe Dalai Lama says kindness is his religion. Wikipedia says that a random act of kindness is: “…a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual… There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile or be happier.”

Being sexy means something is delicious, fun, delightful, it makes us feel good with a smile in our heart. Put that together with kindness, and we have the ultimate feel good action!

 We first heard the saying practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, many years ago when we were at Findhorn, the renowned spiritual community in Scotland. But there can be some confusion about this: perhaps the receiver of the kindness might not appreciate it, it might make them apprehensive or distrustful in some way. Sadly, this seems to speak more about the suspicious world we live in than about the nature of kindness. If there is such wariness then what is needed are more acts of kindness done by more of us, not less.

Perhaps it is the use of the world random that is misleading, and that it would be easier if we used the word spontaneous instead. Spontaneity means we are acting on an impulse, in the moment, freely; we are moved to do something for someone without any thought of receiving something in return. Such behavior is surely the ground of a healthy and joyful society, where we happily give of ourselves to help another and such an act is happily received.

Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give to. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have! — W. Clement Stone

What stops us from acting this way? Invariably it is our own insecurities, lack of self-esteem and self-love, doubts and inadequacies. And the same qualities also stop us from being able to freely receive. If we feel unworthy then we believe we have nothing to give; if we don’t love ourselves then we don’t trust why someone would be kind to us. We fear that if someone gives without reason that they actually want something from us, or that they have an ulterior motive.

If we feel uncomfortable with generosity we can get stuck in uncertainty, fear or unworthiness. When we doubt ourselves we fall into an endless pit of self -denigration. When we appreciate the beauty of kindness it takes us out of such self-centeredness; it enables us to let go of self-centeredness and to freely reach out to each other. We can both give and receive. Such egoless moments are exquisite!

Giving spontaneously can have a remarkable affect on all those who come in contact with it. For instance, HuffPost blogger Arthur Rosenfield was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks. The man in line behind him was getting impatient and angry, leaning on his horn and shouting insults at both Arthur and the Starbucks workers. Beginning to get angry himself, Arthur chose to keep his cool and change the negativity into something positive. He paid for the man’s coffee and drove away. By the time he got home at the end of the day, he discovered he had started a chain of giving that had not only continued all that day but had been highlighted on NBC News and within twenty-four hours had spread around the world on the Internet.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. Scott Adams

Can you imagine a world where no one gave to each other? Where we all just looked after our own needs but ignored everyone else’s? This would surely be a miserable place to live, for ultimately, whether spontaneous or planned, we cannot be happy without being kind, by giving and caring for each other.

Spontaneous kindness is essential to our wellbeing, it liberates us from self-obsession, selfishness, and isolation. True generosity is giving without expectation, with no need to be repaid in any form. This is the most powerful, unconditional, and unattached act of generosity, free to land wherever it will.

Being kind can be as simple as smiling. As Mahatma Gandhi said, Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.

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COMING SOON: Join 32 inspiring meditation experts and luminaries on a magical mystery journey that will transform you from the inside out. Join Congressman Tim Ryan, Marianne Williamson, neuroscientist Richie Davidson, Tara Stiles, Gabby Bernstein and others, on a meditation e-Conference, March 4-8.

Enjoy our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, foreword by the Dalai Lama.

Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: http://www.edanddebshapiro.com

A More Generous Way: Yoga as Opening

Wendy Bramlett, December 2011. Photo by Russell Bramlett.

I walk into Wendy Bramlett’s Saturday morning class in Boulder, Colorado, and choose a spot at the far corner, in the shadows. Here I can turn my face to the wall and let the tears come, if they do.

I am new in town, and I am grieving. Just days ago, during my cross-country move, I learned that my older brother is dying of colon cancer. He has smoked for years, lived hard, eaten junk. When I’m not tearful, I am furious. How could he be so heedless of his body?

Class begins. We stretch out on our backs on the floor.

“Offering your weight generously to the earth, the earth generously supporting your weight.”

Her voice is still and steady, a lilt of cheer rippling just below the calm.

“There is a fine intimacy between your body and the earth.”

Intimacy. Now there’s a word you rarely hear in a yoga class. Funny thing, too, when yoga is all about bringing body and mind into harmony. Yoga—yolk.

Oh, no, thinking. I catch myself and return to the room.

“Be very deliberate in how your body meets the earth. Be aware of each point of contact.” My attention slides to my back. “If the vertebrae contact the earth beneath them with consciousness and care, they will be more receptive to gravity.”

My breath responds, slowing and deepening.

“Between the earth and your body, an exchange of breath, a flow of recognition. The breath and gravity are old friends.”

Of course, how simple—body and earth. Flowing between them, the breath.

“Let the earth breathe you, soften you.”

A small release between my ribs, and the tears begin. I turn my face to the wall and reach for the tissue stowed next to my mat.

* * *

For most of a year it is like this—through my brother’s death, through the months after, showing up in Wendy’s class, tissue in hand. Always she leads me back to the body, back to earth. In almost every class, I turn my face to the wall for a few moments. Is it the flow of words, fresh as springwater? Or how the words soften me, releasing inner streams?

* * *

In class we are working on a twisty pose, parivrtta trikonasana, revolving triangle. Though I’ve been practicing for years, this pose is still precarious.

Feet apart, we bend forward and slowly turn, hand on hip. “Listen to the callings of the spine. The body doesn’t seek discomfort. The body seeks ease and balance. Move in harmony with your body, not in argument.”

I’ve been arguing with my body about this one for a long time.

“Watch how the breath moves your body, how generously it creates space within your body.” I breathe again, and my shoulder opens, lifting another fraction. Within my heart a new feeling of ease, more room.

“The breath is enormously generous, as generous as the body allows.”

Invitation, not effort. A laying down of arms against the body.

* * *

For five years I attend Wendy’s class until, in January 2012, Wendy stops teaching. She has a mass on her liver, late Stage IV. Her students are stunned. When we last saw her, in December, she was the picture of radiant health.

Undergoing chemo does not arrest the disease. By June Wendy is moving toward death.

One day in mid-June I spend time meditating, my attention focused on her great journey. It is like attending a birth—watching, breathing. In the waiting, time shifts—away from minutes and hours and toward simple presence. Threshold time. The air is charged with coming and going.

Wendy dies the following day.

* * *

At a grief ritual in the yoga studio some days later, each face is shell-shocked. How can we absorb such a loss? We talk and weep together.

At the end of the ritual I have one last question. “What kind of cancer did Wendy die from?” I am expecting “liver” or “pancreatic,” the kinds that take people quickly.

“Colon cancer,” I hear. “Metastasized before there were symptoms.”

For a moment the room disappears. I blink hard to get it back. The same cancer my brother had five years ago when I arrived in town. How can this be—colon cancer in Wendy, whose life was defined by listening to the whispers of her own body? In my brother it made sense, but in Wendy?

Instantly I see: I have been wielding a sword of judgment—as if blaming my brother for getting sick would help me stave off the thing that took his life.

My weapon is made of cardboard. My tidy conclusions will have to go. Even in death, Wendy teaches a more generous way: it is time to lay down arms against my brother.

* * *

We are on our backs in savasana, the pose of the corpse.

“Listening in the silence to how your body wants to release.” Wendy’s voice flows through the quiet. “Let the earth move into the body, the body expand into the earth, so that each can replenish the other. Savasana is a reunion with the earth.”

Beneath us, a sure embrace. Within us, not solidity but something more generous: spaciousness. More room, a little more trusting of the breath. More listening to our bodies, to earth.

At the end of savasana we come slowly to sitting. In a few moments we will again encounter the knots of living, but right now we breathe, palms together, open to what may be.

“Namaste,” Wendy whispers.

 

Wendy’s open and generous approach to the body was shaped by Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar, Angela Farmer, and the Continuum work of somatic pioneer Emilie Conrad. Wendy wrote about her view of yoga here. Thanks to Russell Bramlett for the photo and to Avril Bright for keeping a journal of Wendy’s sayings in class. And of course we are grateful to Wendy, and to the earth.

Seven Amazing Women And Men Who Are Being The Change

One evening we were drinking tea and talking about the state of the world, the good and not so good things, and realizing the preciousness of it all. We imagined a world without suffering and agreed that people needed to unite in greater connectedness. It became obvious to us that this could be done by meditating together, which inspired us to create a book to enable others to discover the magic and power of meditation.

From then on everything began to fall into place. We contacted the Dalai Lama, Robert Thurman, Marianne Williamson, Dan Millman, and Jack Kornfield, who all agreed to participate as did so many other amazing people: Nobel Laureates, scientists, activists, and spiritual leaders in all walks of life. Each one showed how meditation can transform both ourselves and the world, that it is an exciting, integral, and intimate part of being alive.

Seven of the dynamic and luminous women and men from our book, BE THE CHANGE, are included here. William Spear has compassionately brought help to many areas in the world devastated by natural disasters. From the experience her own awakening, Byron Katie discovered the four questions that have turned around the lives of countless seekers. The Dalai Lama has tirelessly sought a peaceful resolution to the Chinese invasion of Tibet. By the time she was 19 years old Kiri Westby was a woman's rights activist, working in Africa, Nepal and the Congo. Marshall Rosenberg brilliantly turns conflict into dialogue through nonviolent communication. Yoga teacher Seane Corn works with children, poverty, and to prevent AIDS in some of the most needy parts of the world. And Jon Kabat-Zinn has fearlessly taken meditation into the world of hospitals, thereby enabling thousands of people to find pain relief.

William Spear is the author of Recovering Original Ability and counsels individuals overcoming illness and trauma. He directs the Fortunate Blessings Foundation in Connecticut, which, among many activities and in an effort to relieve human suffering on all levels, assists orphaned and traumatized children following natural disasters, wherever they may occur. “Meditation has been a crucial and essential part of my daily life in helping me to do the work I do, whether it is being with people who are dying, or in an area that has just been obliterated by a tsunami or earthquake. I am often asked how I deal with all the dead bodies, the people who have lost their limbs, children who have lost their parents, or the women I have seen who took the lives of their own daughters to prevent them from being raped and horribly abused. The only way it is possible to witness this, other than totally numbing myself out, is to just keep gnawing away at the edges of my own heart, to keep melting over and over again until I can expand my heart to be big enough to compassionately embrace all that is in front of me.

“If we are in the presence of something that we just cannot bear and we find a way to get into our hearts, then we can begin to soften. When I find myself holding a child who has just lost everything she has ever known, or playing basketball with guys who have had their legs cut off with chain saws and are tied to a board pushing themselves around on the ground, or talking with those who have just been diagnosed with cancer or HIV, then I try to just be present and compassionate with my heart open, even if it is unbearable. My meditation practice is a practice of constantly opening my heart so that I can be unconditionally present.”

Byron Katie is founder of The Work, a process of inquiry, and the author of Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are. “The apparent craziness of the world, like everything else, is a gift that we can use to set our minds free. Any stressful thoughts that you have about the planet, for example, or about life and death, shows you where you are stuck, where your energy is being exhausted in not fully meeting life as it is, without conditions. When you question what you believe, you eventually come to see that you are the enlightenment you have been seeking. Until you can love what is—everything, including the violence and craziness—then you are separate from the world, and you will see it as dangerous and frightening. When the mind is not at war with itself, there is no separation.

“I live in constant meditation, and if a thought should ever show up as anything less than goodness, I know that it would spill over to other people as confusion, and those other people are me. My job is to enlighten myself to that, and to love the spent rose, the sound of the traffic, the litter on the ground, and the litterer who gives me my world. I pick up the litter, do the dishes, sweep the floor, wipe the baby’s nose, and question anything that would cost me the awareness of my true nature. There is nothing kinder than this, nothing.”

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and probably the world’s most beloved and famous meditator. While he is known for bringing attention to the plight of the Tibetan people and his pacifist attitude toward the Chinese, it is less well known that he rises at four a.m. each day to meditate for at least two hours. He recounts how a monk, who had imprisoned by the Chinese for eighteen years, told him that during his imprisonment there were many moments when he was in great danger. When the Dalai Lama asked what he was in danger from, the monk replied that he was in danger of losing his compassion for the Chinese, his captors. This illustrates how compassion is central to a Buddhists understanding of the meaning of existence. “By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare,” says the Dalai Lama, “we reduce our own selfishness, which is the source of all problems, and enhance our sense of kindness, which is a natural source of goodness."

Kiri Westby, although still in her early thirties, has already devoted many years to women's rights in some of the most difficult parts of the world. "When I was young, my mother would read the obituaries to us from the newspaper. She would say, ‘These people died today, Kirsten. We could die at any point. So let us do something great with our day. Let’s help somebody today.’ When you are raised in this way, it is natural that you then want to create a life in which you are doing whatever you can for other people.

“I went to Nepal where I helped to run a shelter for trafficked girls on the border with India. The girls had either escaped, or there might have been a police raid in the brothels in Delhi or Bombay and we would go and get them. Some were eight years old or younger. Some were twenty years old and had been in the brothel for years, forced to live in cages. Ninety-seven percent of them were HIV positive. The most intense suffering you can imagine is an eight-year-old girl who has been raped continuously for longer than she can remember and who jumped out of a two-story building and broke her leg in order to get to the shelter, only to learn that it was her family who sold her to the brothel and so she has nowhere to go.

“I needed to meditate before I could even leave my room in the morning. It gave me the strength to recognize that suffering is the human experience we all have in one form or another, and not to feel overwhelmed by it, not to lose my balance. Without that space each morning I would have been too filled with the suffering; I would have been paralyzed by it. Meditation is like an invisible tool that you always have with you and it was without doubt the most useful tool I had."

Marshall Rosenberg is founder and director of the Center for Nonviolent Communications, and is deeply committed to the nonviolent resolution of conflict. His many books include Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. "In 60% of the television programs watched by children, the hero either kills somebody or beats him up. History teaches about the good Americans who killed innocent people. I believe engaging in self-empathy supports us to stop and transform the thinking that creates violence. It is a very important part of peace on our planet. We need to take time each day to remind ourselves of the preciousness of compassionate giving and receiving. If we have played violent games with other people—guilt games, shame games, anger games, punishment games—then we can grieve for this in a way that changes us and creates a more caring world."

Seane Corn is the National Yoga Ambassador for YouthAIDS, co-creator of the “Off the Mat and Into the World” campaign, and a highly sought after yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism and inspirational teaching. “First yoga changed my body; then meditation changed my attitude. Then I realized that whether my practice was fifteen minutes or four hours was irrelevant because it was not about how yoga can change me, but how I, through this practice, can begin to change the world. What I really felt was how dare I not step into the world and hold that space?

“"If what is happening on a global level is representative of what is happening on the individual level and if I want to transform what is happening globally, then I have to look within myself and see where I am separating myself from other human beings and from the earth. Where am I living in blame, in hate, in terrorism, in war, in any negative capacity toward another being? For if I am not willing to clean up the fear or the disconnect that is within myself, then I am responsible for what is happening on a planetary level.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at Massachusetts University Medical School. He is the national bestselling author of Wherever You Go, There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living. “Over the years, more than 18,000 people have come through the MBSR clinic at the UMass Medical Center, and thousands more have attended other mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs around the country. Whether referred by their physician or not, people come with a huge amount of pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. Through the cultivation of mindfulness, they develop a more functional relationship with that suffering, they turn towards it, open to it, and actually befriend it to a degree rather than insisting that it stop, and in the process, the pain often transforms or even falls away. It is jaw dropping. I never get used to it, even after so many years. I think it is fair to say that the participants in these programs walk out after eight weeks of mindfulness training and continue to cultivate mindfulness in their lives in various ways for years. For the most part, they will tell you that they are more in touch with their own beauty than they may have been since they were children.”

How has meditation helped your life? Do comment below.

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See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jane Fonda, Father Thomas Keating, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass, and many others.

Our 3 meditation CD's: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Spirit-Fire

Three Steps to Generosity and How It Benefits YOU!

When was the last time you gave unconditionally – with no strings attached? What about receiving with gratitude for the abundance in your life? And what does dancing have to do with being generous?

According to my friend and one of the most inspiringly generous people I know — Nipun Mehta, founder of CharityFocus.org, a fully volunteer-run organization — these are the three stages of generosity.

Please watch Nipun share his sentiments about generosity in this TEDx video and be moved to action.  Think about what you can do to give, receive and dance:

You have the power to be generous. How you do it depends on you! What are you doing to make someone else’s life better right now?

Still don’t know?

Here are some ideas on where to start:
Karma Kitchen
Karma Clinic
Smile Cards

Thank you Charity Focus Family for your generosity!

In gratitude,

Toan

Potlatch: Encouraging Generosity

A potlatch encourages the flow of resources in a community and reaffirms the importance of community ties.

We can learn much from the Native American tradition of the potlatch. It is a tradition that values generosity above all else, and a potlatch, which is a very grand ceremony, is an exercise in giving away material possessions, food, and money. It is not uncommon for the host of a potlatch to give away so much of his own resources to his guests that he ends up with nothing. However, he can regain his wealth by attending potlatches at which he is a guest. In this way, a potlatch validates generosity and encourages the flow of resources in a community, while at the same time continually reaffirming the importance of community ties.

When we are held in a web of trust and connection, we can give generously, knowing that when it is our turn we will be supported. In this way, our whole sense of ownership becomes less individualistic and more communal. Resources are in an acceptable state of flux, moving within the community through the vehicle of the potlatch, which serves the additional function of strengthening community ties. This seems clearly preferable to isolating ourselves from one another and hoarding our resources.

Perhaps we can find ways in our own lives to create a community in which a flow of resources happens in this way, in which we support one another to be generous. We might begin by celebrating our own type of potlatch, having a dinner party and giving each guest an object that is dear to us. Or we could give everyone a little bit of money in an envelope to spend on themselves just for fun. Someone might get inspired to throw their own potlatch, and before we know it we might have a tradition that supports and validates generosity even as it creates a safety net for leaner times. In the most profound sense, that is what a community, a tribe, and family do best.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / micah.e

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