Ducks Don’t Do Anger

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In its passion, anger pushes away, condemns, and makes everything wrong except itself.

None of us want to admit that we get irritated, bitchy, or lose our temper. We much prefer to think of ourselves as wonderfully tolerant and serene. Yet getting angry can arise out of nowhere and often out-stays its welcome, like an unwanted guest that moves into our house.

Anger may be an effective demand for justice, for basic rightness, and for what is appropriate and humane. But it can also be like a single match that burns down an entire forest, causing tremendous damage and hurt. It can make enemies out of friends or family, can lead to greed and self-deception, or cause wars. The fallout can be huge and we may have no control over the repercussions.

So how do we deal with this intruder, this thief that steals our sanity? How do we let anger know that this is not the way we want to live, that enough is enough?

Soon after Nelson Mandela was released, Bill Clinton asked if he was angry when he walked away from twenty-seven years in jail. “Surely,” Clinton said, “You must have felt some anger?” Mandela agreed that, yes, alongside the joy of being free, he also felt great anger. “But,” he said, “I valued my freedom more. I knew that if I expressed my anger I would still be a prisoner.”

As psychotherapist Deepesh Faucheaux says, “Ducks don’t do anger. Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away.” For, although we may have a good reason to be angry, retaliation just gets us into further negativity.

“Rev James Lawson, who was a cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King, shared with me an experience when he and Dr. King were sitting in an auditorium,” says Michael Bernard Beckwith. “A man came up and said to Dr. King, ‘Are you MLK Jr.?’ When he said yes the man spat on him. Dr. King took a handkerchief, took the spittle off of his suit, and handed it back to the man saying, ‘I think this belongs to you.’ He didn’t hit the man, he didn’t cuss the man out, he didn’t say how dare you, he had this ability to just be in the moment.”

There’s no compromise with anger, no chance for dialogue, just ‘I am right and you are wrong.’ This puts our heart out of reach, we lose touch with our feelings and connection with each other. In our longing to reconnect we end up hurling abuse instead. And yet we are the ones who suffer the most, particularly from the affects of anger in ourselves. Only by going beneath anger do we get to see whether there is hurt, grief, or fear trying to make itself heard, for invariably anger is a hidden cry for love.

Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow: it doesn’t work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it and creating untold emotional damage, denying its existence, or repressing it until it erupts at a later time. Instead, making friends with anger is like growing roses out of rotting compost, using the passion without the destruction.

By naming and recognizing the many faces of anger, we can stay present with it as it arises, keeping the heart open, breathing, watching emotions come up and pass through. Often anger has little to do with another person but more with our expectations and needs. We can watch as anger fills the mind and makes such a song and dance, and we can just keep breathing and watching as it goes on it’s merry way. We can see it, name it, breathe into it. As you breathe, silently repeat: soft belly, open heart, soft belly.

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Love Needs To Be Remembered, Restored and Renewed

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It’s that time of the year and love is in the air! Everywhere we see red hearts beaming from cards and boxes of chocolates, while a dozen roses just doesn’t have quite the right impact if they are yellow.

Every day we can read about the importance of love, how to get more of it, how to be the best at it, how to make it work, how to keep it alive, how to let go if it doesn’t work, and how to trust it and start the process all over again. Love appears to be the most important topic on our minds (along with elections, immigrants and teenage acne, to name but a few).

Learning to open the heart, to listen to, respect and trust what we feel, is one of life’s most powerful teachings. For the heart is more than just the center of love, it is also the center of our being, the place we point to when we talk about ourselves. When we say, “you have touched my heart” we are really saying “you have touched the deepest part of my being.”

We don’t have to go in search of love, or fear giving away so much that we have none left. We can never lose love; we can only lose sight of it. Love could not happen if it was not already an integral part of who we are. How can we lose what is our nature? How can we be left with nothing when love is the source of all life?

However, love rarely flows smoothly. We all experience conflicts, hurt or loss, and if the pain is too big to deal with we lock it away inside. This serves to lock us out of our heart. And when we become isolated from love we become mistrustful, uncaring, shallow, hateful, prejudiced and fearful.

Fear closes the heart so we can’t feel love, as when we close our arms and pull back in defense. Love comes from the open heart, when we open our arms wide to embrace another.

All this means that love needs to be remembered, restored and renewed. We remember by holding love close and feeling its presence; we restore those places where love has been forgotten or ignored; and we renew it by being aware of love in every moment.

    The Indian government invited us to speak at a yoga conference being held in Pondicherry, in southern India.

     When it was Ed’s turn to speak he talked about the beauty and awesome power of unconditional love. A man in the audience raised his hand.

      “Please sir,” he said. “What is this love that you speak of? How do I get this love? Where can I find it?”   

       Ed replied: “You awake in love, you bathe in love, you eat in love, you walk in love, and you live in love. Love is within you, it is your true nature, it is who you really are.”

        “Oh sir,” the man said, “You have all the right answers!”

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6 Cool Things To Do If Someone Hurts You

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Have you ever felt so upset with someone for hurting your feelings that you didn’t want to ever speak to them again? It’s a common scenario: someone says something that’s rude, accuses you of doing something wrong, or in some way makes you defensive. But does harboring dislike, revenge, even hate, do any good? Does it make us feel any better or does it just create more stress?

It’s important that we acknowledge what we are feeling—all the anger, unfairness and aversion. Repressed feelings means they’ll just come up again at some point, most likely when another situation triggers a similar response. But negative emotions sap our energy, and they can spread like wildfire, like a single match that can burn down an entire forest.

Negativity also creates an emotional bond with the abuser, so that we keep replaying the drama and conflict over in our heads, justifying our own behavior and dismissing theirs. In the process we become a not-very-nice person.

Anger, aggression and bitterness are like thieves in the night who steal our ability to love and care. Is it possible to turn that negativity around and chill out so we can actually wish our abuser well? This may sound challenging, or even absurd, but it can make life’s difficulties far more tolerable.

  1. Recognize no one harms another unless they are in pain themselves. Ever noticed how, when you’re in a good mood, it’s hard for you to harm or hurt anything? You may even take the time to get a spider out of the sink. But if you’re in a bad mood or are feeling very stressed, then how easy it is to wash it down the drain.
  1. No one can hurt you unless you let them. Hard to believe, as no one actually wants to be hurt but it’s true. When someone hurts us, we are inadvertently letting them have an emotional hold over us. Instead, if someone yells at you, let them yell, it makes them happy!
  1. Respect yourself enough that you want to feel good. Deb did this with her father, an abusive and angry man. Deb made the decision that she wouldn’t respond to him with negativity, so she turned it around within herself and began to wish him well. He died recently and Deb was able to feel total closure.
  1. Consider how you may have contributed to the situation. It’s all too easy to point fingers and blame the perpetrator but no difficulty is entirely one-sided. So contemplate your piece in the dialogue or what you may have done to add fuel to the fire. Even when he feels he is 100% right, Ed always looks at a difficulty to see what part he played in it.
  1. Extend kindness. That doesn’t mean you’re like a doormat that lets others trample all over you while you just lie there and take it. But it does mean letting go of negativity sooner than you might have done before, so that you can replace it with compassion. Like an oyster that may not like that irritating grain of sand in its shell but manages to transform the irritation into a beautiful and precious pearl.
  1. Meditate. Meditation takes the heat out of things and helps you cool off, so you don’t over react. A daily practice we use is where we focus on a person we may be having difficulty with or is having a difficulty with us. We hold them in our hearts and say: “May you be well! May you be happy! May all things go well for you!”
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How To Quell Face The Unknown In 2017

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It’s hard not to wonder what is going to happen in the next year. We know we will face huge weather changes, thousands of refugees seeking a safe life, and political values as never seen before. So it’s not surprising if there is some trepidation about tomorrow, let alone the year to come.

Life never stands still, no matter what we do. Change is the very nature of existence—our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideas, even our relationships are as changeable as the weather. Who we are now is not who we were last year, last week, yesterday, even a minute ago.

Without change we become stifled and stagnant. Being with what is as it is, and integrating the reality of change, is wonderfully liberating. We become fearless through uncertainty.

Here are 10 ways to face the unknown:

  • Accept what is. If you can change something, then do; if you can’t, then let go of resistance and be with what is.
  • Take risks. Life is about not having answers and taking chances, all without knowing what’s going to happen next.
  • Be your own best friend. It’s easy to blame yourself for what is wrong, but this is when you deserve the most love and kindness of all.
  • Every day is a new beginning. When you step forward you have no idea what might happen. But nothing will happen if you continue to stay where you are.
  • Keep falling as long as you keep picking yourself up. Making mistakes is not the problem, but not learning from them and moving on is.
  • Nothing lasts forever. Appreciate every moment, fully and completely, as it will never happen again.
  • Think with your heart instead of your head. When you come from your heart you quickly come to your senses.
  • Meditate. Take time to just stop and breathe, to remember why you are here, and to find what is of real meaning to you.
  • Do something for someone else. Make giving to others a part of your life, even just a smile and a hug.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. A good sense of humor prevents a hardening of your attitudes, and stops your opinions from getting too rigid.

May 2017 bring a greater sense of sanity and peace of mind for us all. Let’s make this day, this week, this month, and this whole year, one of compassion and tenderness. Happy New Year!

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Why Santa Is The Coolest Yogi EVER

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A true Yogi is someone who displays great wisdom and compassion, who hears the suffering in the world, who serves others, and who loves and gives unconditionally. This makes Santa far more than just a jolly guy in a red outfit, for he is a remarkable example of such qualities, ones we may want to emulate ourselves:

  1. He encourages us to do good and be good. Now that’s a big one, as many of us often act mindlessly or selfishly.
  1. He gives endlessly, to everyone, all over the world, all at pretty much the same time. This indicates a truly vast and generous heart that takes great joy in giving, without any need to receive in return.
  1. Yet he does not give blindly. Rather, he judges what is the most appropriate gift for each. This shows how generosity also needs wisdom to be of the most benefit.
  1. He hears our requests and reads our letters. Meaning that he takes the time to listen and pay attention, which we could all do a lot more of.
  1. He encourages rituals and invokes magic, such as letter writing, stocking filling, decorations, milk and cookies. Ritual is an essential part of honoring something that is greater than us, while magic is the beauty of the unknown.
  1. He has great psychic powers: he flies in the sky with reindeer, descends chimneys without getting covered in soot, goes by many different names, and is extraordinarily elusive. Has anyone actually ever seen him?
  1. He knows where we live. In other words, he lives inside every one of us.
  1. Most importantly, he lifts our spirits at the darkest time, bringing laughter and joy, which is undoubtedly the greatest gift of all.

Through caring and giving, a la Santa, we move from selfishness to selflessness, from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. True generosity is giving without any thought of getting or receiving, it is unconditional and unattached. Through giving and sharing in this way, we don’t lose anything. Rather, we gain so much.

Is there a Santa in your heart?

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Finding Your Peace in Uncertain Times

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Almost no one thought Donald Trump would win the election, so when he did it naturally threw many people into fear, outrage, sadness, and confusion.

Life is very unpredictable and causes varied emotions and mind states, many of which are extremely challenging and difficult, even unbearable at times. Imagine the mind is like a beautiful garden. If we let a pig in our garden we will have a hard time getting it out, as pigs really like tasty gardens! In the same way, negativity is like a pig that gets in our garden and causes havoc. Fighting fire with fire just adds to the negativity and creates further uncertainty.

If circumstances can’t be changed then we must change our attitude toward them—we can’t control the wind but we can adjust our sails. We either blame others or relax into each moment as it arises. When we’re with the way things are in the present moment then we’re free of confusion, and that freedom is our peace.

Chaos is natural—when we look at the world it is everywhere—yet we can find our sanity in the midst of this. Like water in a lake, when our mind is calm and peaceful we can see the depths below, but when our mind is disturbed it’s easy to get caught up in the turbulence. Beneath fear or grief there is steadiness, inner stillness, independent of the circumstances.

This means seeing clearly so we can let go, all the time, constantly, in every moment. As soon as we hold on, whether to resentment, anger, bitterness or fear, our mind gets caught up in the emotion and we lose our steadiness. Letting go doesn’t deny our feelings. They come and they pass.

All things come and go, all things are impermanent; we can’t cling to anything, not even pleasure, as it doesn’t last. Integrating the truth of this is wonderfully liberating for it brings us back into the present moment. If everything is impermanent, including our feelings, then there’s no point in grasping and trying to make those feelings last longer. Rather, there is far greater joy in connecting with sanity.

When we are kind to ourselves, as well as kind toward the person we are having a challenging time with, then an extraordinary thing happens: the pain within us begins to dissolve. This means there is nowhere for the negativity to take hold of or to land.

By embracing kindness, we strengthen feelings of self-empowerment, worthiness, and value. Extending kindness to our adversary is like turning compost into roses.

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How Do You Treat Your Waitress?

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We had a TV series in London. One of our fellow TV presenters seriously upset the camera crew when they arrived at his house. He was rude and dismissive, essentially putting himself on a pedestal and treating them like lowly workers.

Minutes later, when the camera was turned on, he became the perfectly smiling spiritual icon he was publicly known to be. But, as the crew told us later, he had already shown them that he didn’t walk his talk.

In contrast, Ed was meeting with Jo, our TV producer, in a small London café. If you have ever been to London you’ll know that in such café’s the tables are very close. Two well dressed African men sat down next to them, which effectively meant they were sharing the same table.

Ed asked them where they were from and one said, “South Africa.” The man pulled out his business card ­­– his name was Jacob Zuma who, at that time, was the President of the ANC but is now the President of South Africa.

Usually, if you sit next to someone in a big city café, they don’t even make eye contact, let alone conversation. Jacob had never met Ed before so he could have been distant and polite, he certainly didn’t have to talk, let alone maintain communication, which he did over the following few years. He even hugged him!

How we walk our talk shows far more than just our public behavior. Rather, it highlights how we view the world and our place in it. A few days ago a friend was telling us that a business agreement she had been nurturing for over three years had abruptly come to an end.

“He wanted to exclude me from part of the discussion, which I said was absolutely not agreeable. So he said that was that and he got up and left.” But instead of being shattered after losing the years of work, she felt a huge relief. He had shown her his true colors. As she said, “He had shown me how he treats the waitress.”

We met with the Dalai Lama at his residence in India. While we waited for the meeting Ed was standing on the veranda, enjoying the beauty of the mountains stretching in front of him, when he saw a monk at the far end of the veranda trying to get his attention by beckoning us to come.

We thought this monk would bring us to our meeting but as we came close to him we realized that he was the Dalai Lama. In traditional Buddhist custom, we immediately began to prostrate but he took our hands and lifted us up, saying, “No, no, we are all equal here.”

That teaching stayed with us. As Deb first thought, ‘Oh sure! You are the great Dalai Lama, spiritual leader to millions. How can we possibly be equal?’

But over the following months she felt his words in the core of her being and experienced the true equality he was referring to: the equality of our shared humanness and, simultaneously, our shared heart.

The Dalai Lama showed us how he treats a waitress—with the impartiality, consideration and respect that he treats all beings. No matter who we are, whether a street cleaner or a president, we are all equal, here together as one human family.

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The Greatest Yoga Of All

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Although ‘make love not war’ may be the key to a better life it’s sadly not what we see when we look around us. Imagine, as John Lennon said, what a wonderful world it would be if there were no wars and no suffering! How cool it would be!

There is nothing that could be more significant, helpful, or honoring of human existence and dignity than harmlessness, or non-injury, called ahimsa in yoga.

This may sound so simple, but ahimsa requires a complete shift in attitude. Few of us get through life without causing harm, whether by ignoring someone’s feelings, by using more of the earth’s resources than we need, or by buying products made by underage and underpaid workers. What to do when insects invade the kitchen or slugs eat away at the vegetable garden, yet we don’t want to harm them? And how often do we think things that are hurtful or harmful to ourselves?

How many times a day, consciously or otherwise, do we put ourselves down, reaffirm our hopelessness, dislike our appearance, or see ourselves as incompetent or unworthy? How much resentment, guilt, or shame do we cling to?

If there is one yoga that that leads to Self-Realization it is non-injury or ahimsa. Sri Swami Satchidananda

In a world where selfishness and self-interests are the norm, it takes great courage not to react with greed or anger, which can easily lead to violence. Yoga teaches us to be honest, respectful, to take care of ourselves and others, and ahimsa is integral to these teachings. Simply through the intent to cause less pain each of us can bring greater dignity to our world, so that harm is replaced with harmlessness and disrespect with respect.

Gandhi, one of India’s greatest yogis, was the champion of ahimsa. He changing the course of history by showing how harmlessness is more powerful than violence, inspiring millions of others to follow his lead. This showed that human dignity through non-injury is the essence of human decency.

By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare 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. The Dalai Lama

Practicing mindful yoga, sitting in quiet reflection, meditation or prayer is immediately calming. When we get off the cushion the peace stays with us, highlighting any tendency to cause harm and making such behavior far less likely. It becomes even more improbable as we deepen awareness of our fundamental interconnectedness, for then violence toward another is causing harm to ourselves.

Try this: throughout your day silently repeat: “May I be well, May others be well, May I practice harmlessness toward myself and toward all others.”

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What The Buddha Would Say To Mr. Trump

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If a bull goes straight when the herd is crossing a road, then they will all go straight because he leads the way. The same among people. If the one who is thought to be the highest lives in goodness, the others do so too. The whole realm lives happily if the ruler lives rightly. The Buddha

This is true when the leader is virtuous and honest. But Donald Trump is leading his followers into a quagmire and they don’t even know it. He is using the most destructive of qualities—greed, hatred and delusion—to gain power and prestige. This is the behavior of an egomaniac who thrives at others’ expense.

We are not presuming to know what the Buddha might say to Mr. Trump, just as we don’t presume to know what might be said to any of us. But the Buddha clearly taught about the dangers of greed, hatred and ignorance, what he called the three poisons, that Trump displays frequently. Where greed grabs our desires, hatred uses fear to incite insecurity and then blames everyone else, while ignorance clouds our vision.

The three fires of greed, hatred and ignorance destroy the mind from which they are born. The Buddha

Greed has many relatives, such as ambition, self-centeredness, pride, grasping and clinging, giving rise to dissatisfaction, irritation, frustration and anger. The craving to have and possess stops us from giving; it generates a fear of not having. Donald Trump personifies greed in his desperate desire to win at all costs, no matter how he does it. For instance, he insists on flying aboard his luxury jet, rather than a more practical airplane, at a cost to taxpayers of millions of dollars.

Hate is destructive, indiscriminate, like a snake it can rise up out of nowhere and attack. It is most seen in prejudice, whether against different races, political beliefs, or sexual preferences. When we are fixed in the belief that we are right, then anything that questions or threatens that belief becomes the enemy and must be eliminated. Hatred’s many bedfellows include criticism, sarcasm, misogyny, and racism. Need we say more?

The Buddha pointed out that such hatred becomes our own worst enemy for no matter how much we try to annihilate the hated one, the hate remains inside us, slowly destroying and eating away at our own happiness.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; while you are the one who gets burned. The Buddha

Abhorrence towards others is based on the belief that we are all separate from each other, that I am more important than you. This breaks friendships and families, while creating self-righteousness and arrogance. Prejudice closes our heart and shuts down our sensitivity.

The moment that you think of doing harm to someone, that thought harms you first. Unless you hate yourself, you can’t hate others. If you love others, that means that you create the feeling of love within you first, and then you offer the love to others. Your thoughts pass through your entire system, and are expressed through your mouth and through your hands and actions. Without thinking, you cannot speak or act. So the harmful thought, from its very origin, spoils your system. In other words, you can’t hit anyone else without striking yourself. Sri Swami Satchidananda

Where hatred closes our heart, delusion makes us believe there is a permanent, separate and fixed ‘me’ so that we take ourselves very seriously. It belies a lack of awareness, especially of anything outside ourselves. This is the ignorance of our essential connectedness with all others.

The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear. What seeds will you grow there? The Buddha

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How Your Mind Affects Your Health

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.53.53 AMWe hold huge amounts of repressed or denied grief, anger, trauma, memories, or emotional pain deep in the cells of our body, and every so often they make themselves known, as in an aching lower back or migraine headache.

“I try to just notice myself, without judgment,” says Christine Evans in Your Body Speaks Your Mind: “I notice that I feel sick when my ex-lover rings, or sad when my lower back is massaged. I notice the area between my shoulder blades that aches when I’m tired or feeling tense. I notice that the sick feeling, the retching and vomiting, is about not accepting how I really feel and not believing that I have the right to feel whatever it is.”

Become aware of the physical effects in your body of different situations, thoughts or feelings. As you do this, you will see how closely all the different parts of your being, both physical and psycho/emotional, are interwoven.

What happens when you are irritated or frustrated

If you are stuck in a traffic jam, a client is late for an appointment, or the children keep interrupting your conversation, what happens to your breathing, or your shoulders, or your stomach muscles? Does your breathing get short and shallow? Does your stomach tighten?

Observe anxiety reactions

What happens when you are worried or anxious about something, perhaps a child who is late coming home, a presentation you have to give, or the results of your partner’s blood test? Where do you hold the anxiety? What physical effect does it have? Do fears about the future create a pain in your stomach? Or does your back always ache in the same place?

Watch how you feel when anger abounds

If your boss or your partner shouts at you, what happens to your heart, your head, or your insides? What do you do with angry feelings? Do you bury them inside? Is your headache because of unexpressed anger? Do you swallow hard, get a sore throat, clench your teeth, or get constipated?

Observe how memories affect you

What happens if you recall past memories? Do you feel warm and relaxed, or do you break out in a sweat and feel nauseous? Pay particular attention when you recall unhappy memories, perhaps when a parent hit you or you were bullied at school. As you follow these memories, watch where in your body there is a reaction, a tightening or nervousness.

Analyze illnesses and injuries

Think back to past illnesses or times when you were hurt. Note the parts of your body that were involved. Have you always held your stomach muscles tight? Have you always had recurring headaches? Have you always hurt on the same side of your body?

Understanding how you hold issues or feelings in your body enables you to focus on their release. For instance, if you tighten your stomach muscles as a way of holding your feelings back, then you can acknowledge those feelings as you also consciously relax your belly.

Find the feelings and the pain that happen together. Accept and release the feelings and you will be freeing the pain. If you feel as if your body is a stranger, this is the time to make friends with yourself.

 

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