Displaying 37 - 45 of 52 entries.

Letting Go of the Past with Mindfulness Meditation, Part 1

  • Posted on September 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

By Charles A. Francis

Many of us have difficulty letting go of the past, and moving on with our lives. For some of us, it may seem down right impossible, and it can have serious consequences to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Attachment to the past is such an ingrained characteristic of the human condition that a great deal of spiritual and psychological studies are devoted to the subject.

In this two-part article series, we’re going to examine the nature of attachment from a Buddhist psychology perspective. In Part 1, we’ll see how it manifests itself to draw us to the past. We will examine it specifically from the perspective of the Five Hindrances—the obstacles to our spiritual development.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss how we can use mindfulness meditation, and other tools, to let go of our past, so we can be free of it. We will see how living in the present moment will enable us to find true happiness and inner peace.

Study Finds Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Loneliness

  • Posted on August 27, 2012 at 1:05 am

By Charles A. Francis

Loneliness is a widespread problem in Western society, especially among older adults, which doesn’t seem to get enough attention. As adults grow older, there is a tendency for them to become more isolated from their families and society in general.

A study published recently in a scientific journal found that mindfulness meditation helps older adults overcome loneliness. This is good news for seniors because loneliness is a major risk factor for various health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.

Healing Childhood Emotional Abuse with Mindfulness Meditation

  • Posted on August 15, 2012 at 12:27 am

By Mary Sovran

Are you an adult survivor of childhood emotional abuse? If so, then you’re not alone. Many people have been deeply wounded and scarred as children by their tormentors. They grew up with little or no self-esteem because of being abused.

This problem can trouble you for years and cause you a great deal of pain. Believe me, I understand the problem from personal experience.

Abusers Can Be Anyone

The source of childhood emotional abuse can be from parents, siblings, other relatives and even neighbors, or you may have suffered at the hands of more than one abuser at a time.

What Enlightened People Do

  • Posted on August 6, 2012 at 1:43 am

By Charles A. Francis

In the last two articles, we talked about what enlightenment is, and the qualities of an enlightened person. In this article, we’re going to look at how enlightened people put their wisdom into action.

The mark of truly enlightened people is in the actions they take to help put an end to suffering throughout the world.

As I mentioned in my previous article, 12 Qualities of an Enlightened Person, my understanding of enlightened people is limited by how far I am along on my own spiritual path. From my studies about spiritual figures in history, and my experiences with people well along their path, I’ve identified some general activities that enlightened people engage in to bring more peace and harmony into the world. Keep in mind that their activities will vary according to how enlightened they are.

12 Qualities of an Enlightened Person

  • Posted on July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

By Charles A. Francis

”If you think you are enlightened, go home for Thanksgiving.” ~ Ram Dass

We sometimes say that some people are enlightened, but do we really know what that means? We might say that because they are kind, loving, and insightful. While these may indeed be qualities of an enlightened person, it’s hard to be sure unless we ourselves are enlightened.

I’ve been on a spiritual path most of my life, and in my experience I’ve seen how people are transformed through spiritual practices. Here is a list of qualities that most of them attain. This is not a comprehensive list, but I think it contains some of their most prominent qualities.

Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of enlightenment. That is, everyone is at a different point in his spiritual development, and some may be more enlightened than others. Also, these qualities can be possessed by both men and women. Enlightenment is not exclusive to either sex.

1. Happiness

The enlightened person is happy and joyful. He has a cheerful disposition most of the time, and is willing to share that joy with others. He is always optimistic that all challenges have a resolution. Even though the resolution may not be the most desirable, he is confident that he is capable of being at peace with it.

2. Peaceful and Serene

The enlightened person is peaceful and serene, because he is free of fear and other unwholesome emotions. He can see that the human condition reaches beyond this physical existence, so he no longer has a fear of the unknown. He is free of worry because he understands that freedom from suffering comes from within, and not from material possessions.

3. Loving, Kind, and Compassionate

The enlightened person is loving, kind, and compassionate for two main reasons: 1) he genuinely cares about other people, regardless of whether they care about him, and 2) he knows that other people provide him with the spiritual nourishment he needs to grow, therefore, he remains spiritually open to everyone.

4. Not Self-Centered

The enlightened person is not self-centered, because he has lost the sense of a separate self. He can see the interconnected nature of our existence. To him, this is a reality, and not just a concept. He realizes that all physical manifestations (humans, animals, plants, etc.) depend on each other for their survival.

5. Emotionally Stable

The enlightened person is emotionally stable because he no longer has an ego that needs validation for its existence. He is not hurt because there is no ego to hurt. He does not get angry because he is understanding and compassionate toward those who are not as far along the spiritual path.

6. Patient and Understanding

The enlightened person is patient and understanding because he appreciates how our ignorance creates our own suffering. He understands the challenge of becoming enlightened, so he doesn’t condemn people for their missteps.

7. Humble

The enlightened person is humble. Since he knows his place in the universe, he doesn’t need validation from others. Therefore, he has nothing to prove to anyone, including himself. His humble nature allows him to be kind and gentle, and be open to everyone he encounters.

8. Insightful and Open-Minded

The enlightened person is insightful and open-minded. He is able to see the world with great clarity, without attachment to preconceived ideas about people, places, and things. This enables him to observe the world without jumping to conclusions. Belief and intuition are replaced with clarity of vision and understanding.

9. Inner Strength

The enlightened person has great inner strength. He has learned healthy ways of connecting with the sources of mindfulness energy—through healthy interactions with people, and within. He no longer has a need for the power struggles that most of us engage in.

10. Leadership

The enlightened person is a leader. Having awakened to the point of understanding the nature of suffering, he realizes his duty to help other people find freedom from suffering. He leads by example, rather than control. People follow him because of who he is and what he stands for. They want to be more like him.

11. Mindful of His Health

The enlightened person is mindful of his health—physical, mental, and emotional. He knows that his mind, body, and spirit must be in harmony in order to maintain his spiritual condition. He has developed an understanding of physical and mental health, and doesn’t blindly depend on others for his health. He is mindful of the nutrients and substances he puts into his body.

12. Committed to his Spiritual Practice

The enlightened person never forgets how he achieved enlightenment. He is also aware that it takes continuous effort to remain that way. It takes a great deal of mindfulness energy to help others along their path, so he’s aware that he needs to replenish his spiritual strength on a daily basis. Otherwise, he’ll lose his effectiveness as a spiritual messenger.

Overall, the enlightened person is mindful of himself, and the world around him. Furthermore, he is curious and willing to continue learning. He is aware that even though he can see with great clarity, developing an understanding of the true nature of our existence takes time to observe and investigate.

This is not a comprehensive list of the qualities of an enlightened person. But I think these are the most prominent. My purpose for examining these qualities is to give us a compass to guide us in our spiritual journey—a vision of the path that lies ahead.

From this list, it seems clear that enlightened people live rich and fulfilling lives. Those who achieve any measure of enlightenment do so through some form of daily meditation practice, a willingness to let go of old views, and a commitment to helping others find peace. It takes work and dedication, but it is well worth it.

Best wishes on your spiritual journey!

Adapted from “Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace.”

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What Exactly Is Enlightenment?

  • Posted on July 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

By Charles A. Francis

I’ve recently gotten into two different discussions about the definition of enlightenment. Those of us who are on a spiritual path have some idea of what the term means, but when we’re put on the spot to give a clear definition, we find ourselves getting tongue-tied.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had a hard time coming up with a good definition. When a friend asked me what enlightenment is, I had to pause and think about it, and I’m still not sure I gave her a good definition. Well, now I’ve had a little time to think about it.

The Mindfulness Meditation Retreat: Your Most Powerful Tool for Spiritual Development

  • Posted on May 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm

By Charles A. Francis

Have you ever wondered if there was a way you could speed up your spiritual development? I’m sure you know of some people who are so peaceful and serene that nothing seems to bother them. The secret of their success is actually quite simple. They’ve figured out what works, and they do it consistently.

Why the Slow Progress?

The reason many of us have trouble with our spiritual development is because we don’t avail ourselves of some simple tools that can be tremendously effective. In Buddhism, they have what is called the Noble Eightfold Path. If you’re not familiar with them, these are essentially basic practices that will help us achieve enlightenment, or freedom from suffering.

How Mindfulness Meditation Improves Your Mental Capabilities

  • Posted on May 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm

By Charles A. Francis

In last week’s post, I talked about some of the health benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation. Believe it or not, I was only scratching the surface. As researchers continue to study the effects of the practice, it is becoming apparent that there are many more benefits of mindfulness meditation. In this article, we’re going to examine how the practice can improve our mental capabilities.

As we saw in last week’s post, high levels of stress can impede our body’s ability to function properly. Essentially, our body is not capable of coping very well with extended periods of stress. It also has a similar effect on the mind.

Stress Management Through Mindfulness Meditation

  • Posted on May 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

By Charles A. Francis

When I first began my mindfulness meditation practice, my primary purpose was to use it for stress management, and I figured that there were some health benefits associated with the practice. But I wasn’t sure exactly what they were.

When I started doing the research for my book, I realized that scientists had been busy over the last 10-15 years studying the health benefits of mindfulness meditation. Coincidentally, they were primarily interested in finding out how mindfulness meditation could be used for stress management.

Rising Stress Levels

The World Health Organization describes stress as “the health epidemic of the 21st century.” It is at the root of more than 70% of all visits to the family doctor. Elevated stress levels can have a variety of harmful effects on the body. It can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, and even skin conditions. In extreme cases, stress can result in heart disease and stroke.

Stress can also be harmful when we engage in unwholesome ways of relieving it, such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. These substances only address the symptoms, and not the root causes of the stress.

If we want to deal with stress in a healthy manner, we need to do 2 things:

  • Give our mind and body time to relax.
  • Redefine our views about our needs.

Giving Our Mind and Body Time to Relax

When we are agitated, it is difficult for us to sit quietly and relax. We usually try to drown out the noise in our head with more noise. We often feel that we’re being unproductive if we’re sitting idle doing nothing. This only exacerbates the problem.

If we want to reduce the stress in our life, we need to be courageous and break the cycle of constant agitation. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of sitting still, it will have a tremendous impact if you constantly have your foot on the accelerator. By stopping and allowing your mind to settle down, you’ll be able to think clearly and more objectively. It will probably be the most productive 5 minutes of your day.

Redefining Our Views About Our Needs

Much of our stress comes from worrying about not getting, or losing, the things we think we need to survive or be happy. We often worry about losing our material wealth, and ending up on the streets with nothing to eat. Though this may be a reality for some people, it is not for most of us. In the worst-case scenario, we can go to one of the many homeless shelters available. There we can receive the food and shelter we need to survive.

Many of us grow up with certain ideas of what will bring us happiness. In the United States, the land of opportunity, this means having a successful career, a beautiful family, and a nice home and automobile. When we finally achieve all these things, then we begin worrying about losing them. In time, we realize that life was much simpler and less stressful when we didn’t have all the material belongings and accomplishments. If we are going to be free of stress and worry, then we need to redefine our views about what will truly bring us peace and serenity, and rearrange our priorities.

Stress Management with Mindfulness Meditation

One of the main areas where the research on mindfulness meditation is being applied is in the treatment of psychological disorders—stress related disorders in particular. Research has consistently shown that mindfulness meditation reduces stress and negative mood states, and improves mental and emotional well-being. It does this by reducing the levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone. They found that patients who meditate are more serene, so they don’t experience stress-related disorders.

Psychologists are now recommending mindfulness meditation to their patients for stress management. In addition, many business organizations have incorporated the practice into their health and wellness programs to curb their rising expenditures in health care.

Those of you who have some experience with meditation know how well it works in helping your mind and body settle down. The challenge for many of us is to remain consistent and committed to practicing on a regular basis. One of the things that helps me is to remember that by being relaxed and focused, I can be more effective and productive in all my activities.

My meditation practice has also helped me change my views about what truly brings me happiness. I am fully aware that material wealth does not lead to inner peace. Only my spiritual development brings me long-term serenity. This realization has enabled me to redefine my priorities, and put my meditation practice near the top.

Now that the health benefits of mindfulness meditation have been confirmed, more people are using the practice for stress management and to avoid the negative health consequences associated with stress.
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