Monday, December 21, 2009

Symbols of Christmas

Symbols of Christmas

1. The Christmas tree - reminds us of the tree on which Jesus suffered and died for us

2. Gifts - reminds us of the wonderful gift of salvation which Jesus gave us. Without him, the gates of heaven would have been closed to us forever. That's why gifts are freely given, without expecting anything in return, because He gave us the gift of Life even while we didn't deserve anything.

3. Smiling faces - the value of giving, and serving others cheerfully, of joyfully forgiving

4. Shopping for the appropriate gift, inspite of traffic, or the crowds, or painful feet - the willingness to sacrifice or endure pain for the good of others, to make others happy, to serve

5. Strangers greeting strangers, everyone wanting to contribute to make the season bright - the bond of brotherhood, everyone as children under the eyes of one loving Father, without looking at skin, or intelligence, or height, or beauty, or ugliness. No labels, just one big happy family.

6. Christmas carols - real, solid reminders of the what and why of Christmas:

- Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king
- Joy to the world, the Lord has come
- O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant . . .

7. The Nativity scene - the value of poverty, and humility, of not having even a decent room, all endured for the sake of Love

8. The visit by the 3 kings (or, as some say, the adoration by the Magi) - the necessity for rich, wise and powerful people to be humble and acknowledge the real power of God, even if He cannot be obviously perceived, even if His power and majesty cannot be seen inside the cold and dark stable

Wishing all of you a truly Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tool to Achieve Calm Mind

8-Minute Breath Meditation

1. Set your timer with alarm for 8 minutes
2. Choose a quiet place
3. Lie down or sit comfortably
4. Start to observe your breath. Simply observe, and not try to control.
5. As you notice the air coming into your nose, tell yourself quietly, "IN". And as it gently goes out, say in your mind, "OUT"
6. As soon as you notice a distracting thought, very gently bring your attention back to the IN... and OUT.
7. If you notice that you're trying to assess your rate of breathing, such as , "I am breathing too fast", gently bring back your attention to IN... and OUT
8. There are no goals, no assessments, no forcing
9. What should remain is simply observation
10. Once you hear the timer, end the session, and go back to your everyday chores. Do not evaluate  whether or not your meditation session was "successful". The practice itself is "it".

Benefits:

a) You get to practice a very simple method. The simplicity calms down your mind and gives it an 8-minute rest from its usual hectic and feverish pace. As they say, the mind is like 7 horses all pulling at different directions. Try this small experiment: sit down and try to calm your mind. In a few seconds you will notice that about 10 thoughts have already raced through your mind. You cannot just sit down and "calm your mind". You have to anchor your attention to something, preferably rythmical. That's why it's so refreshing to stand by the beach and see and listen to the waves.
b)  After a few sessions you get to "discover" that you cannot control some things, actually you cannot control a lot of things! This realization will lead towards eliminating the sources of frustration, worry, stress, anxiety.
c) You don't need to join a special meditation group to start a useful practice.
d) You can do it anywhere.
e) Long-term, you will get to enjoy the many benefits of regular meditation if done through several years, such as, lower cholesterol, less anxiety, better and deeper sleep, better listening skills, greater understanding and tolerance, etc. All of which have already been proven through scientific research since the 1960's.

Suggested program:

Do one session of 8 minutes per day. Morning, afternoon or evening is fine, as long as you try to do it around the same time. No need to fret if you can't, or if you miss a day or two. After 3 months (shorter or longer is fine. Just don't force anything. Remember, there are no time goals, no performance goals) or so, try to do two 8-minute sessions per day - one in the morning and one in the evening. Eventually, as your body adapts and feels comfortable, and maybe by that time you've enjoyed the benefits of a calmer and sharper mind, you may think of increasing the number of minutes per session to 10 or 12 minutes.

Note: By the way, why 8 minutes? It's been proven, by testing brain wave patterns of long and short term practitioners, that this is the minimum amount of time needed before the practice can be really useful.

That's it! Best wishes to you!