Why Keeping an Open Mind and Heart is The Healthiest Thing You Can Do

Having had my fair share of stressful and painful experiences, I am intrigued by studies that explain how negative emotions manifest as physical pain in our bodies. I am specifically interested in the role of stress and the condition of our heart because even though our heart governs most of our decision making, we truly take for granted one of the most magnificent masterpieces of creation.

Negative Emotions

 

A New Type of Heart Attack in this article from Harvard’s Heart Health Newsletter.

Most heart attacks are due to coronary arteries being blocked by blood clots that form when plaques of cholesterol rupture. The lack of blood flow through the blocked arteries results in heart muscle dying — hence the name “heart attack.”

But over the past few years, physicians have come to recognize and better understand another form of heart attack. This unusual type of heart attack does not involve rupturing plaques or blocked blood vessels. It is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or stress cardiomyopathy. Japanese doctors, who were the first to describe this condition, named it “takotsubo” because during this disorder, the heart takes on a distinctive shape that resembles a Japanese pot used to trap an octopus. The disorder was commonly believed to be caused by sudden emotional stress, such as the death of a child, and to be far less harmful than a typical heart attack. For that reason, some had also labeled this condition “broken-heart syndrome.”

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Purifying Your Heart

In the yogic tradition, so-called heart blockages are caused by unfinished and unprocessed emotions. They call this energy, Samskara, which in Sanskrit means “impression”. You know, the things that make either a good impression or bad on us that we can’t seem to get “over” – those things that cause our mind to ruminate on horrible or remarkable experiences that have happened to us. The heart and mind playing an important role in making us feel inspired and loving or apathetic and victimized.

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Our heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy that few of us come to really appreciate. The heart’s energy flow (referred to as Shakti, Spirit or Chi) plays a very important part of our lives and experiences.

The heart controls our energy by closing and opening. For example, you can experience great feelings of love for someone until they say something negative towards you. Vascilating between open-hearted and closed. For deeper reading on The Secrets of The Spiritual Heart, a chapter of the book I have now read five times, I recommend The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

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So science is also demonstrating that volatile emotions like anger and hostility are bad for heart health. But studies have shown that some of the quieter emotions can be just as toxic and damaging.

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“Study after study has shown that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are many times more likely to get sick and die prematurely – not only of heart disease but from virtually all causes – than those who have a sense of connection, love and community,” Dean Ornish, MD, tells WebMD.

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Author Michael Singer explains that we have spent a lifetime of storing up unresolved conflicts which can lead to a heart that is shut down and closed for business. But all is not lost. We have a choice.

We can simply allow the experiences of life, whatever we label as good and/or bad — from falling madly in love to experiencing the death of a loved one —  yes, just simply allow those experiences to move right through us.

Will they be joyful and painful experiences? Yes. But the clinging and resisting and wrestling you do with these emotions will no longer distract you from living fully in the moment with an open mind and heart.

The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.

Art by Turkish artist and graphic designer Aykut Aydogdu, based in Istanbul.

The indomitable will of our soul burns on even during the downward spiral of our destiny.

 

True Love

Acts of Love are valid only if they are performed without conditions or expectations.

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It starts with honoring and remembering the sacredness that lives within all of us.

No matter how screwed up we treat each other.
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Art by Mario Sanchez Nevado Aegis

Zero Calorie Foods, If/Then Snacking, Saying Grace and 3 Fab NYC Kitchen Supply Stores

 

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Have you ever noticed how extremely grateful dogs seem to be when you throw them a bone or dish up their chow?

Like they are eating for the very first time.

Saying Grace

Taking a moment of gratitude before each meal is a mindful and thoughtful approach to eating and enjoying time together. I’ve noticed a few times that this can make guests at the table a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to say grace to a God they don’t know. Or perhaps they don’t know what to say, or maybe how to lead the prayer.

Saying grace or taking a moment to pause before dining together, can be as simple as bowing heads or holding hands and saying thank you to each other and the host. Each culture has a unique way to pray. One of my favorite mealtime prayers. . .

Let us be together; let us eat together.

Let us be vital together, let us be radiating truth, radiating the light of life.

Never shall we denounce anyone, never entertain negativity.
      The Upanishads

Snack Struggles

Okay, so here is my new If/Then algorithm for snacking. If I want a bag of salty Kettle chips, then I snack on cucumber slices with sea salt. I don’t think I will ever give up my search for nutrient dense snacks pack as much gratification as a bag of potato chips. I found this Zero Calorie Food chart today on Rodale’s site, (publishers of Prevention Magazine). Click here for the full article. With the exception of the celery, these foods are lower in calories than most. For example, a cup of apricot is about 79 calories.

Zero calorie

If you are visiting New York this upcoming holiday season and you are looking for unique gifts or something special for yourself, I have three timeless and classic Manhattan favorites that are all so very close to each other  and located in the Flatiron district right below Madison Park, home of the original Shake Shack, which by the way is open until Christmas. I’m curious, what are some of your favorite places to shop in your town/city village for kitchen tools and table settings?

Whisk at 933 Broadway

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Fish Eddy’s 889 Broadway

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ABC Carpet 888 Broadway

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3 Questions for a Modern Day Shaman

unicorn meWhile I appreciate and follow the rational wisdom of stoics like Seneca and Aurelius, I have also been fascinated with the role of the Shaman, the healer, the medicine woman (and man) in tribes throughout the world. While throughout history these people have taken on the responsibility for the well-being and emotional balance of their villages, I ask myself, what is the role of a healer in today’s society and do we not all have the potential to heal each other?

A Shaman at The Soho House

My first encounter with a modern day Shaman was in the private screening room of The Soho House in Manhattan. Ridiculously ironic I know, but true just the same. Barnaby Ruhe leads an east and west cost circle collective to Shamandome at Burning Man every year.

From Woo Woo, to Wow, Wow

Just recently, I have been fortunate enough to have benefited greatly from a life energy and power animal healing session with Jennifer , a Life Energy Coach with a Masters in Natural Health based in San Francisco. I met her right here in the world of Word Press. It’s interesting to note that Jennifer is also a brilliant business strategist by day. She brings a great balance to the land of woo woo, which is exactly why I think her work bridges the magic of mysticism into modern day living so well.

As a coach, Jennifer helps people identify and integrate changes into their life through a variety of shamanic practices and techniques and the guidance of helpful spirits.

If you are interested in learning about the details of my experience with Jennifer, please comment below and I will be happy to go into further detail.

For this blog today, I asked Jennifer to answer a few questions.

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MJ: Jennifer, please share some of the really amazing moments you had with the Mayan Shaman in the Yucatan that found you on your trip to Mexico. This, the beginning of your own shamanic journey.

JM: I had never heard of shamanism before my trip to Mexico a few years ago.  That all changed on my third day of vacation.  I decided to walk to the city square, but as usual, got lost.  One of the local residents offered to help me find my way.  We walked and talked, and when we got to the square, he told me that he needed to introduce me to someone.  That someone turned out to be a Mayan Shaman.

There was an electric moment when we saw each other, a knowing that we were meant to meet.

The first thing the Shaman said to me was, “You have a very big heart.” He asked me what I did to make the energy of my heart so big, but before I could answer, he took my hand in his and curled his fingers around mine in such a manner that our fingers made a spiral. He explained to me that this was the symbol of the shaman, and went on to tell me about shamanism and how it heals.

He then said that he was going to perform a shamanic healing on me.  He spent over 4 hours working on me – using stones, chanting, drumming and energy work.  I knew he was the “real deal” when he explained that my energy was blocked due to two traumatic events in my life, and then went on to describe those events to me.

At one point, he took two raw chicken eggs.  He had me shake them and then gently ran them over my body, many times.  He told me they would remove negative energy.  When he finished, he had me shake the eggs again.  They were very heavy and sounded as if they were filled with gravel!

As he continued his healing work on me, I suddenly felt a huge opening in me. A wave of emotions swept over me—anger, joy, guilt, sadness—and I saw a vision of a snake slithering down the side of a pyramid. I felt shattered, but also felt an incredible sense of relief and peacefulness.

By the time he was done with the healing, he was covered in sweat.  He told me that he normally would do this work over several sessions, but his spirit guides had told him I was coming and to do the work all in one night.

He began my shamanic training that first night and continued throughout my trip.  On my last night there, he came with a gift for me: an 800+ year-old stone carving of Itzamna, the Mayan god of creation, writing, and divination.  It had been carved from a million-year-old stalactite from a sacred cave and used in shamanic ceremonies since.  Many people had wanted the carving, but it was not for sale.

When I asked him why he gave the carving to me, he said, “Because you are to become a shaman.”

Since then, I have gone back to Mexico several times for more training with him.  We have traveled to many sacred archaeological sites together, where he has taught me how to increase my energy and power, read the energy of others, and how to heal.

MJ: Can you give an example of how your power animal has helped you discover yourself and grow with more happiness, self-love and power?

JM: My power animal works with me daily, for my personal healing and shamanic work.  He shows up in shamanic journeys, dreams and visions.  When I first became aware of shamanism, my power animal began teaching me shamanic techniques that were validated through training with the Mayan Shaman and others.

He will also bring in other power animals when I am dealing with a situation that would benefit from that animal’s strengths and wisdom.  As I’ve been transitioning to doing shamanic work, my power animal has brought in Snake (transformation), Hawk (vision), Bear (strength), Vulture (purification and rebirth) and Crocodile (power and awareness) to share their life lessons with me.  Years ago, my power animal brought Fawn in to help me through a difficult personal time in a beautiful, gentle way.

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MJ: Why do you think more and more people are interested in Shamanistic healing now?

Shamanic healing has been around since the beginning of humankind.  Society moved away from this type of healing with the advent of modern medicine, which typically has focused on the body part and not the whole person.  I think more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that the body is a complete system that includes mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects.  Shamans focus on all these areas when working with clients.  I also think that modern medicine is becoming more open to including holistic approaches to healing.   In California, one hospital combines modern and shamanic practices for healing.   While it is the first hospital in the country to do this, I would expect to see more integration between different healing approaches in the future.

Intrigued? Learn more about power animals, soul retrievals and energy healing on Jennifer’s blog  and website. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @SpiritEvol

Learn more about the meaning of your power animal – Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small

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Home is Everywhere We Are

While I have lived and have traveled to some pretty amazing places, I have always felt that my true home, my refuge, was in my heart and in this present moment right now.turtle_scientific_illustration2_thumbHome, you have sought it everywhere, but you are already there.

Home, the flowing river of the heart.

Love holding you in close embrace.

Home, it’s not a place but a state of being.

Enjoy more poetry from Danna Faulds
Go In and In: Poems From the Heart of Yoga

Courage, Grit and Grace

It takes courage to come home to the here and the now. To arrive in the place in our heart, our home, to feel the connection to what is real right now. Courage to feel the real emotions we may not want to feel. The anger, the resentment, the fear. I am incredibly inspired by Tara Brach’s Meditation Talks and her first book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Today I choose the courage to feel what is real over the temporary comfort of numbing the pain. It takes courage to seek the answer to the question – What am I unwilling to feel?  The process can be painful, but it is also quite liberating.

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The root of the word courage “cor” is Latin for “heart”. True courage requires living with heart-felt intent.

Sensing Awe in the AWEdinary

sun riseIf you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration anywhere and everywhere, in the most ordinary things and experiences in life.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower – Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. 
~ William Blake

Study – The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

What passes for spectacular and awesome in today’s culture is mostly synthetic and artificial – most experiences fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Feeling Awesome
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn’t a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding – something that can only be felt – something that can be shared, but not explained. Read more awesome thoughts here
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius
Read his philosophy here

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

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Profound truths are in the anthropological field notes of life.  The sweet honey fragrance of pink plumeria aromatizing along my pre-dawn morning walk.  The salty, slightly cooler fresh air blowing through my hair from the Gulf of Mexico. The nervous scurrying about of the hard shell blue crab across the inter coastal dock.
Life’s Field Notes
When searching for awe in the ordinary, I study life like an anthropologist. Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. My journals may include –
  1. Date, time, and place of observation
  2. Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site
  3. Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, taste
  4. Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes
  5. Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language
  6. Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation
  7. Page numbers to help keep observations in order
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The Blue Crab as Spirit Animal
Time to come out of your shell and be yourself. Stop hiding. He is reminding you that not all paths lead directly to your personal goals. Sometimes a sideways approach is necessary. Shift your focus to what is all around you because your inner senses are trying to guide you through an easier way. Alternatively crab can be reminding you that community is vital for growth, however equally important is a time of introspective seclusion. Know when to withdraw and discern what is right for you.
Crab can also be letting you know that it is important to fuel your curiosity on all levels. Exploration of the world around you leads to discovering new horizons and a vibrant life.

Biking through Bali and The Future of Travel through Space and Mind

 

baliI am currently researching and planning a trip to visit the best of Bali. I want to find the less traveled, secret and sacred places.  Oh what an adventure this will be.  95-miles-wide and located in the Indian Ocean, Bali is a part of the Indonesian archipelago known as the Lesser Sunda Islands north of Western Australia. I am sure one of the highlights of this trip with be a bike tour through the bamboo forests of Bali and have found Bali Countryside  offering what looks like amazing tours.

The Future of  Space Travel

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In the meantime, I have been pondering the potential of space and mind travel – the last two frontiers of exploration. I’m currently reading and recommending Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. If you are interested at all in space exploration, than I believe you will be fascinated by his mission to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. For up to the moment news on his progress, follow space exploration @elonmusk on Twitter

The Creative Possibilities of Mind Travel

I became very curious about the idea of  creative mind travel this morning after reading this quote from John O’Donoghue’s book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
“No one else has access to the world you carry around within yourself; you are its custodian and entrance. No one else can see the world the way you see it. No one else can feel your life the way you feel it.”

Dance Trance, Strobbing Lights and Whirling Dervishes

derviches_tourneurs___whirling_dervishes_by_baleineau-d5lp1eyAll travel and stories start with an idea in our minds –  in the inner vast space of potential, limitless creativity. Now imagine taking self-exploration to the next level – tripping if you will, sans drugs, for mind expansion.

This is not a new idea at all. Psychologists and neuroscientists have been experimenting with stroboscopic lighting techniques to activate the pineal gland which in turn produces visions not unlike a psychedelic trip.

Entering a dance trance  have had many throughout time traveling into the spirit world. Native cultures such as the Australian Aborigines, African tribespeople, Sufis and American Indians have utilized the power of dance to make contact with the spirits as they enter a world of vivid color and surreal architecture and archetypes.

Those that practice insight meditation have reported experiencing hallucinations. From simple shapes and colors such as one might see on a low LSD dose to full on “out of body” experiences where entire characters and environments are formed and interacted within.

Interested in touring the deep vastness of your mind without magic mushrooms, microdots or black sunshine? You can read more in this article How to Hallucinate Without Drugs.

Adventure as a Mindset

To embrace the unplanned experiences and to fully appreciate the spontaneity of life is to believe the next adventure is about 5 minutes  away.

Mental Training and Mindfulness

stone_buddha_faceOne of my favorite Sunday rituals involves listening to meditation insights from TaraBrach with my husband. For us, it’s like going to church or temple, but a whole lot more fun.  We sip our coffee and get to sit on the beach or lie in our bed and just listen and absorb the wisdom. I think of it as a mental workout for my mind because  physical workouts and fitness training will only get me so far. It is the combination of mental training and exercise that will help me succeed at being a better version of my former self.

About Tara

Tara has been  practicing and teaching Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, with a focus on vipassana (mindfulness) meditation for over 35 years. She is a senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and author of several books including one that I am currently reading.

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Tara explains that meditation stimulates our capacity for empathy while improving our ability to collaborate with others while benefiting from mutual creativity. It also has made me a more patient person. Just ask my happy family.

I began meditating for about 10 minutes daily about three months ago and started with the Headspace App. Andy, the surfer turned meditation coach, guides you through calm breathes to soothe the mind. The clarity of mind and inner calm that I received from these brief breaks before I started the day have been astonishing. So much so, that I searched for more and stumbled upon Tara.

While I have been committed to a simple ten minute practice of Vipassana meditation, I do want to try some of the other meditations that Tara mentions in her recent interview on The Tim Ferriss Show.

Specifically the “smile meditation” – to soften my entire face and body and relax throughout the day; “inviting Mara to tea” to help face my enemies and challenges head on and the “body scan to melt away stress” to ward off feeling depleted and exhausted.

Click to listen to this podcast interview with Tara on the The Tim Ferriss Show.

Have you incorporated mindful meditation into your daily routine? If so, what have you found helpful? I’d love to know more.

Had to share this one from Instagram – so #true about me.

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