consciousness

How To Make Stress Good For You

Gene's Grocery If you were absolutely sure, beyond any doubt, that your thoughts create your experience of reality, what you would you do?  Or rather, what would you think?

The following video offers amazing examples of the power of belief over our ability to maintain a state of health and well-being.  But it goes further than that.  It tells us that stress, which is commonly linked to negative physical side effects, is made negative by our thoughts about it.

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal cites a study done in the US that tracked 30,000 adults for eight years.  At the beginning of the study those adults were asked about their levels of stress in the last year and if they believed stress was harmful for their health. Then, as McGonigal states, “they used public death records to find out who died.” While people who experienced a high level of stress had a 43% increase in dying, they all had one other factor in common, they believed stress was bad for them.  The adults who were highly stressed but didn’t believe stress was harmful to their health had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including the participants with relatively low levels of stress.

McGonigal goes on to explain these results on a physical level, but the message of her TED talk has implications for more than just the experience of stress.  When we experience anything in our lives we have the choice to accept that it is happening, or resist it internally.  Nonresistance of what is not only opens us up to experiencing the highest manifestation that can be born of that situation, but it also allows the body to regulate itself and maintain its own health.

Today I invite you to ask yourself, “What thoughts about my life situation are causing me pain or dis-ease?”  Experiment with replacing that view-point with one that is accepting, empowering, and joyful.  You could be saving your own life!

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consciousness

Spilled milk: to cry or not to cry?

PHOTO BY PETER SPERO

Today I almost cried over spilled milk, literally.  I splurged on fancy organic milk and as I was walking through the door to my home it fell to the ground, broke open, and spilled everywhere. It wasn’t just a trivial problem, it was the trivial problem.  Yet, that didn’t matter to my thoughts which easily picked up on why this was an issue I should be upset about. When I am easily upset by small things it is a reminder that I’ve forgotten who I truly am, my infinite true self.  

When I try to remember the problems I had a year ago today, or even last Sunday, I have no inkling of what they were.  Can you remember what problems you had last year?  Can you remember the problems you had five years ago, or ten? The only problems I think about are those I am experiencing now, which will soon fade with the passage of days and be replaced with new issues to be bothered about.  The situations themselves are not problems, they are how they are.

Problems are created by thoughts about a situation.  Suffering, and negative emotions, are created by judgement of an experience.

It is easy to see how spilled milk is only a problem when I make it so through my thoughts.  It can be more difficult to watch experiences without judgment when the stakes are high.  I am grateful for this passage from Swami Satchidananda’s Weekly Words of Wisdom, because it is a great reminder to stop grasping at outer solutions for peace and happiness and remember who we really are:

“The teaching in the Bible, just as we find in the Bhagavad Gita is: Don’t look for the fruits of your own actions. You are made in God’s own image. You don’t need to look for fruits from outside. But Adam forgot that he was God’s image. And forgetting is what you call avidya, or ignorance. You forgot your truth. The minute you forget it then you look for it from outside. So Adam thought, ‘Ah, by eating the apple I’ll be happy.’ That was said to be the first ‘sin.’ Eating the apple was not the first sin. Forgetting his true nature was the original sin. Once you forget your true nature, you will commit face many, many problems. So, remember who you are.” (Swami Satchidananda)

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consciousness

What Just Happened?

NYE

New Year’s Eve Dinner at Bop and Mimi’s

It seems only a moment ago I was sitting in front of the fireplace at my grandparents’ house feeling completely at ease with my loving family all around me.

Annually in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day my cousins from New Jersey stay at my grandparents’ house in the Chicago suburbs, along with my Uncle Joe from California, and we truly have ourselves a time.  Every day is filled with one delightful activity after another, always followed by a home cooked meal, and lounging around while enjoying each other’s presence.

Pancake House

Brother Joey, Cousins Jessica, Miriam, and Annie

After our time together we all return to our respective locations; I leave the suburbs and return to my apartment in Chicago.  Hopes and dreams for the new year usually don’t begin to creep into my consciousness until several weeks after my cousins have left.

When launching back into my usual situation I have to first focus on acceptance.  Good or bad, when change occurs I easily identify with the situation.  My thoughts and feelings become based upon the change I experience.  Whether I react to the transition with great sadness, or with great expectations for the future, the nonacceptance is the ego taking hold. Because I hold onto nonacceptance, my actions become out of alignment with the present moment.

Cousins

Joey, Miriam, Katie, and Jessica on Christmas Eve

It is now my intention to send love to what has been, and allow myself to return to the only moment where such joy and love as I experienced with my family can ever exist, right now

Is there anything, good or bad, on which you have a strong internal grip?  Take a breath and allow it to be as it was.  Now give yourself permission to come back to what is real, come back to the present.

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consciousness

What I Know About You

Katie, Joey, and GregA few weeks ago I heard a speaker on education, but instead of learning about adolescent behavior I was taught a lesson in the behavior of my own mind.  A person in the back of the auditorium had been chatting throughout the session, and my mind was not okay with it.  Instead of focusing on that which I had showed up for, my thoughts were preoccupied with judgement.  Even afterwards when the event had passed and was no more than a thought in my mind, I chose to keep the memory of a person I deemed “rude” alive through further internal judgement, not to mention commiserating with my friend who had also noticed this slight disruption.

In my last post I celebrated the incomprehensible mystery that is every individual human being.  When my mind was busy judging a person for behavior I felt was unacceptable I was operating completely unaware of this intrinsic truth.

How do we foster compassion for other human beings when it is so easy to reduce them into nothing more than thoughts in our heads?  The following video with author Karen Armstrong, on Super Soul Sunday, offers concrete tools for experiencing the depth of inherent mystery within all people:

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consciousness

“In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” ― Rumi

By Peter Spero

Opinions are mind candy.  Candy can be enjoyable in moderation, but in excess leads to discomfort, illness, and cavities.  Facts can exist without the added sugar coating of an opinion.

When used in moderation, opinions can be useful tools for action in alignment with the reality of the present moment.  Identification with opinions, which is to the ego as spinach is to Popeye, creates a veil of thought over all perception.  Present moment reality becomes obscured; you can no longer see the depth of the lake because of the billows of sand just beneath the surface.

There is an easy way to settle the sand and see clear through to the bottom of the lake.  Identification with opinions can be dissolved merely by noticing the opinions as they arise.  Once you can see yourself thinking, you no longer are your thoughts.  What will the world look like from this new perspective?  “When the  soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about,” (Rumi).

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consciousness

Do you believe in magic?

The question itself sounds silly.  Magic is a label for the inexplicable.  Yet, magic not being real, we know that there is an explanation for that which we do not understand even if we cannot figure it out.

Tonight, as I watched clips from David Blaine’s Real or Magic, I began to see magic from a different perspective.  Magic is a word used to make something unreal. Magic just means that something is illusory, or a trick, or momentarily without a good explanation.

What would happen if you perceived an event without mentally labeling it?  What if the word magic is a disguise for true wonders that exist in reality?

A mind unable to concoct a logical explanation for an event does not make the event untrue.  It is merely very difficult for thoughts to perceive beyond the barriers, rules, and limitations it has firmly set in place for itself.  When those barriers become less important, and perception takes over from thinking, the world can transform beyond dreams, imaginings, and even things we call “magic.”

What I truly love about the following “magic trick” is the deeper truth of the interconnectedness of all beings that it demonstrates.  Our five senses and thought forms may have strict limitations by their very nature, but consciousness, which allows it all to arise, has none.  Consciousness is the space in which our reality manifests, and is the bond that connects us all.  I hope you enjoy this video in which David Blaine offers another perspective on magic and how truly connected we are:

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consciousness

No internet no TV make Katie something something…

SimpsonsOne of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons involves Homer being caught in a situation in which he is utterly without beer or television, and subsequently goes mad.  The past couple of days I have humorously found myself in such a position.

I have no internet access and no television.  As soon as the repair people can make it over to my place they will find out what is wrong and fix the problem, but for now I have neither.  Moreover, I realized a couple of days ago that I am out of cellphone data, leaving me without internet more completely than I otherwise would have been.  So how am I even writing this post?  I’m staying late at my place of work where the internet is gloriously plentiful!

Going without internet and TV is not a problem, but as I have discovered, my ego feels differently.  Last night when I realized that there wasn’t any quick fix to the issue I immediately became stressed.  I started to think about all of the work I had to do that I couldn’t get done, and all of the essential tasks that I had planned on completing which require the use of the internet.  (I am also a big TV fan but I find that a lot easier to let go of).

My boyfriend taught me a great lesson in not perpetuating stress when he left me to myself for a moment and decided not to become stressed out by the situation along with me.  It is so easy to take on the emotions of others you are close to, but it also creates more of that which is causing the pain.  Along with this great reminder of how to stay present even when those around you are taken over by thoughts or emotions, I also found out how attached I was to these luxuries.   I had become identified with my outer circumstance.

I showered and listened to Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, which I find always snaps me out of identification with form, the ego.  The more present I became, the more I smiled at my ego.  In the calming hot water it became easier to see that the voice in my head was attached to the situation and to the idea that my needs were not being met.

A great teacher recently talked to me about seeing the world as God, or the universe, sees the world.  This means looking at the world just as it is, with complete acceptance.  I didn’t know how I was going to get directions to all of the places I had to visit today.  I didn’t know how I was going to email myself a lesson plan, or write on my blog.  But when I took a moment to look at my situation without demanding it be a certain way there was no longer any stress, there was no longer anything to worry about.  As the invaluable quote, which I often use to comfort myself in times of stress or worry, from the movie Gravity states, “no harm, no foul.”

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consciousness

A Silent Surprise

The following video of Marina Abramović’s performance for her 2010 MoMA retrospective speaks for itself entirely through silence.  The most dramatic part of the video is Marina’s encounter with a former great love from the 70’s whom she used to create art with. What truly captivated me about this video were the shared moments of silent staring contents with strangers.

I find the act of staring into the eyes of another human being in silence to be revolutionary in a world consumed with conversation.  Have you ever stared into someone’s eyes without speaking?  Silence provides the opportunity to experience the reality, the fullness, the beingness of another human.  Two humans staring into each other’s eyes in silence is consciousness gazing into a mirror.

Click here to read more about this story.

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consciousness

The Mind Magnet

By Peter SperoToday I noticed a constant pull within me to scroll through various things on my phone.  I would put on my makeup, and then check my email.  Get dressed, scroll through Facebook.  Sit down on the bus, surf the web.  The magnetic pull of my phone started feeling very obvious so I decided to put it away and not use it.

Then I was looking out of the bus window and I started thinking about what I had said in a conversation last night.  My mind then jumped to what I was about to do at work.  Back and forth, my thoughts fluctuated between past and future.  I noticed sitting there on the bus that just as the phone had a magnetic pull towards it, so did my mind.  I decided to let go of the past and future thoughts and let myself be in the moment I was living.

A few seconds passed and once again I was reliving an event, and making up scenarios about future events.  I noticed.  I let it go.  I was back on the bus, staring out of the window looking at the rain and a little taco stand in a parking lot.  Even when I had brought myself back into the moment I could feel the pull of my mind on my attention.  It was magnetic.

By Peter SperoDo you ever notice that your mind keeps pulling you in even when you make a conscious choice to be in the present moment?  Do you ever come back into the actual moment you are experiencing and realize you had been wrapped up in thoughts for a long period of time?  Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone, and at the end of the conversation realize you had no idea what they were talking about because you were thinking the whole time?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, congratulations!  You are aware of your thoughts!  For many, they never realize they are wrapped up in thinking, because they have been completely taken over by the mind.  The mind is living through them and they have no idea that they are not the voice in their head.  To notice that your mind has a magnetic quality that is constantly pulling you in is the flowering of your consciousness.  You have separated who you are, the one who notices the thoughts, from the thoughts themselves.

While it may seem that there should be a fix for this, a solid solution for the magnetic mind, the solution is already arising if you can notice when you are thinking.  That is your awareness gaining strength.  Each time you recognize you’ve been pulled into thoughts, and out of the present, you have given yourself an opportunity to operate from the only place of true power, the only space where anything actually happens, the present moment.

The more often you gently take away attention from the mind and place it on your surroundings, the easier it will become, and the more the infinite intelligence of consciousness will guide your actions.  In this way the highest potential contained within each present moment has the opportunity to manifest in your life.  Being present now creates a miraculous future.

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consciousness

Dark matter, the key to the universe?

By Peter Spero“About one-quarter of the cosmos is comprised of dark matter — five times that of the ordinary matter that makes up everything we see. Dark matter is often defined by what it isn’t: something that can be seen and something that is energy.

Scientists are pretty sure dark matter exists, but they are not certain what it is made of or how it interacts with ordinary matter. It is considered vital to all the scientific theories explaining how the universe is expanding and how galaxies move and interact.”
Read more: Search for Dark Matter Comes Up Empty So Far | TIME.com

The idea of “dark matter” makes me smile.  What makes up most of the universe, but cannot be seen, and isn’t energy?  What is vital to all of our ideas about the universe and how things within the universe interact?

To me that sounds a lot like space, or rather, consciousness: that which can be pointed to by explaining what it is not (things), and that which is the platform in which all things arise.

Space is not a thing.  If you go looking for it, you will find no-thing.

The awareness that is looking for this key component to the universe is itself the key component, the space of knowing in which all things can be known.

Even if this sounds silly in comparison to all of the scientific jargon surrounding dark matter, I find that letting my mind be blown away is truly enjoyable.  It is in that spirit of enjoyment that I share this video, in which Peter Russell talks about these issues in science, and tries to find words to that which cannot be spoken:

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