9 Life Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh

1. “Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.”

This is a particularly harsh lesson from Thich Nhat Hanh where he really wants to emphasize the importance of living in the moment. When we become preoccupied with negative feelings about the future and past it makes it impossible to do our best in the present moment.

Worrying about things that we cannot change puts us out of control of the present moment, so in a sense we are dead when we do not work in the now. So release your worries.
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2. “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”

It is so easy for us demonize and blame others for complex problems. Yet when the tables turn and we do something wrong we justify it with the numerous factors that led to the incident. We should extend the same courtesy to all others giving them the same compassion we would want to receive when making a mistake.

3. “To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow you to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future
If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment.”

Just because you live in the moment, doesn’t mean that you should not ever consider the future and past. The past offers us a lot of wisdom. We have to plan for our future to live responsibly. To live in the moment means just to not get swept away by the future and past, so that we forget to experience the beauty of the present. 

4. “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” 

We can often get caught up in the difficulty of our current set of problems, so that we don’t want to branch out and grow. No matter what improvements or changes we make in our lives there will always be problems, but often we prefer those problems that we already know how to manage.
We should not let our fear of the unfamiliar inhibit us from growing.
 5. “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”

Think carefully about what you say, do and think, because these are the things that form your identity. Living mindfully also means to live carefully to work towards creating an identity where you wouldn’t mind your signature being on everything you produce.

6. “We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.”

Holding onto knowledge and ideals does not let us to explore. Keeping open to the world of different perspective we may find we learn a lot. It will also help us grow compassion for others, who are a lot more like us then we think they are in reality.

7. “Every sliver of carrot needed the sun, the water, the air, the care of another human being. Imagine the effort to grow that carrot, take it from the earth, pack it, cut it and get it here for you. Pay tribute to that. Chew mindfully. At times, close your eyes and pay homage to the carrot. Think of the nourishment it needed to be and the nourishment it’s providing as a gift for your body.”

Every small activity of the day is filled with wonder. By learning to take note of all the complexities of the luxuries of everyday life, we get a great appreciation for the abundance that we live in. This leads to not desiring so many additional things since we already have so much.

8. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” 

Our body can have a great deal of influence on our mood. To carry one’s self with confidence and happiness can help bring the brain out of a rut. Next time you are feeling down, stand up straight and smile to help improve your mood.

9. “My actions are my only true belongings.” 

Things come and go, but what determines the course of our lives is the way we act. Choose wisely when making decisions for actions and inactions, because these are the things that permanently alter the course of our lives and those around us.

Source & Credit: www.guidedmind.com

9 Types of Pain That Are Directly Linked To Your Emotions

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Did you know that every single thought and feeling that you have in your mind manifests itself physically in your body in some way, shape or form?
This is why the body releases various different chemicals based on our mood or how we're feeling at the time, whether it be feel-good chemicals from being happy, or stress hormones from being anxious.

Positive vs. Negative

When it comes to positive versus negative thoughts, the big question is whether or not experiences and events that happen in life are intrinsically negative or positive.

For example: a person is waiting patiently in line to get coffee, but someone suddenly cuts in front of them and orders first.

The person who was waiting instantly gets upset and starts down a negative path of thinking that goes onto to influence their entire day. They're in a bad mood all day because they cannot escape their negative thoughts.

But what if that person chose to accept that another person cut them in line and simply went on with their day, negativity free?

They don't succumb to negative thoughts, and therefore negativity does not dominate their day. So, was the person cutting in line an intrinsically negative experience? Or do we define whether or not experiences are inherently negative or positive?

The Mind-Body Link

While the direct influence that the mind has on the body is not always readily apparent, the link between these two vessels is sacred.
When we have an overwhelmingly positive mindset, attitude, and outlook on life, we're better able to resolve internal problems, which in turn helps us create a happy, healthy life.

The same goes for negativity. If we're constantly having self-destructive thoughts or choose to dwell in negativity, we avoid resolving internal issues and subsequently end up in an unhealthy lifestyle.
Every emotion and experience we have gets stored in the cell memory of our bodies.

This is why any unresolved traumas or wounds will continue popping up in different areas of your life until you've fully healed them. You can see which areas of the body are affected by which emotions in the chart above.
If you've been experiencing a lot of tightness or pain throughout your body, and it's not due to physical activity, listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
These could be signs that your body wants you to find inner peace and resolve any painful issues that you've avoided in the past.

The best thing you can do to stay aligned with your higher being, as well as prevent the onset of rumination, is to be aware of how you perceive the experiences of your life.

Instead of impulsively jumping from one emotion to the next, take a step back and see if there is any possible way you can learn from the experience.
Train yourself to observe, rather than to react. You are in complete control, even when you don't think that you are.

Source & Credit: www.higherperspectives.com

10 Tips For Spiritual Growth

By Remez Sasson
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Spiritual growth is a process of shedding our wrong and unreal concepts, thoughts, beliefs and ideas, and becoming more conscious and aware of our inner being. This process uncovers the inner spirit that is always present, but hidden beyond the ego-personality.
Spiritual growth is the process of inner awakening, and becoming conscious our inner being. It means the rising of the consciousness beyond the ordinary existence, and awakening to some Universal truths. It means going beyond the mind and the ego and realizing who you really are.
Spiritual growth is of great importance for everyone. Spiritual growth is the basis for a better and more harmonious life for everyone, a life free of tension, fear, and anxiety. It helps us learn not to let circumstances influence our inner being and state of mind. We manifest composure and detachment, and we develop inner power and strength, all of which are very useful and important tools.
Spiritual growth is not a means for escaping from responsibilities, behaving strangely and becoming an impractical person. It is a method of growing and becoming a stronger, happier and more responsible person.
A balanced life requires that we take care not only of the necessities of the body, feelings and mind, but also of the spirit, and this is the role of spiritual growth.

10 tips for spiritual growth

1. Read spiritual and uplifting books. Think about what you read, and find out how you can use the information in your life.
2. Meditate for at least 15 minutes every day. If you do not know how to meditate, it is easy to find books, websites or teachers who can teach you meditation.
3. Learn to make your mind quiet through concentration exercises and meditation.
4. Acknowledge the fact that you are a spirit with a physical body, not a physical body with a spirit. If you can really accept this idea, it will change your attitude towards many things in your life.
5. Look often into yourself and into your mind, and try to find out what is it that makes you feel conscious and alive.
6. Think positive. If you find yourself thinking negatively, immediately switch to thinking positively. Be in control of what enters your mind. Open the door for the positive and close it for the negative.
7. Develop the happiness habit, by always looking at the bright side of life and endeavoring to be happy. Happiness comes from within. Do not let your outer circumstances decide your happiness for you.
8. Exercise often your will power and decision making ability. This strengthens you and gives you control over your mind.
9. Thank the Universe for everything that you get.
10. Develop tolerance, patience, tact and consideration for others.
Spiritual growth is the birthright of everyone. It is the key to a life of happiness and peace of mind, and the manifesting the enormous power of the inner spirit.
This spirit is equally present within the most material person, and within the most spiritual person. The level of the manifestation of spirituality is dependent on how much the inner spirit is close to the surface, and on how much it is hidden by our thoughts, beliefs and negative habits.

Source & Credit: www.successconsciousness.com

Ten things to be rich

Translated by Tinh Tam

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1.  Save to be rich and work hard to be rich:  Know how to save and live within your means;  work hard but not very hard to make you sick, working hard means not be lazy either working at a factory, at the farm or in your home-based business.  

2.  Be honest to be rich:  Be fair in your business, have the right price for goods or service, so there will be more trust and more customers.  

3.  Work hard to be rich:  Wake up early everyday for your work or business.  

4.  Have time management to be rich:  Take care of your chores at home.  

5.  Have prevention to be rich:  Have the burglar alarm and fire alarm installed at your house to prevent burglars and fire.  

6.  Have reputation to be rich:  Never do any illegal businesses.  

7.  Have union to be rich (Union is the noun of the verb To unite):  Every member in the family has to help each other.  

8.  Be faithful to be rich:  Have virtuous wife and well-listened kid(s);  avoid conflicts, jealousy between husband and wife, also do not get angry to your kid(s).  

9.  Belief in your future to be rich:  Teach your kid(s) about wealth building.  

10.  Give back, do charities, have merits and good karma to be rich:  Be willing to do the charities and be generous in charities;  also do good things and avoid doing bad things.

Source & Credit;www.truehappiness.ws

Why Guidance In Meditation Is So Important

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Everyone Needs Guidance

Everyone needs guidance in meditation whether you sit in front of the teacher in a group while they give you instructions or whether you get instructions first and then go away to meditate. It is important to know exactly what you’re doing and why you are doing it.
The only exception is the natural meditation states of people who play sports or become absorbed in their hobby or even someone doing a puzzle can slip into deep concentrated states without guidance or any help. But lets leave that aside and talk about formal meditation practice.
Within most of the eastern wisdom traditions having a teacher was vitally important to get the proper guidance from someone who had experienced the various levels of meditative realisation and therefore knew what to tell people about them. It was important to find a teacher who had actual experience for themselves and not just studied the books of former masters. Just like if you wanted to visit a country that you had never been to the best person to guide you would be someone who frequently travelled there themselves and had extensive knowledge of the place.
Lineage is an important concept for the authenticity of a meditation tradition. The idea that the instructions have been passed from one realised master to the next for thousands of years generally starting from a renowned master like Buddha or some other historical master. Without a lineage connecting you with the old masters your tradition was considered lifeless and missing the vital energy current of embodied wisdom passed down.
It seems reasonable to suggest that if you are going to meditate it is very important to know why you are meditating, what you expect to find and what you trying to achieve. Even if what you are making an effort to achieve is to go beyond ambitions or effort.
I was guided in meditation through the traditional route and got instructions from a Tibetan Buddhist Master who I considered my spiritual friend and Guru and then went away and meditated exactly as he instructed even doing week long retreats following his instructions. If I needed more help I would go back to the Guru, ask questions and modify my practise in accordance with his advice.
I started to lead guided meditations with people who visited the Buddhist centre where I was living and studying and realised  it was the modern equivalent of passing on vital information and guidance.
My main job was to keep people’s minds from wandering and keep them focused ‘on the job’. As a former tennis coach what I was doing was similar to imparting the skills of tennis. Also as a meditator I realised the huge job it was keeping your mind from wandering. People would tell me they didn’t even know they were distracted from the breath until I said come back to the breath. This is a vital skill to learn in meditation; the recognition of whether you are focused on your task or whether you are simply lost in thoughts daydreaming.
As my teacher would tell me – “5 minutes of quality focused attention is better than an hour of daydreaming,” essentially quality is better than quantity when it comes to meditation.
Once you have learned the skills of meditation in a group meditation you can then become your own guided meditation teacher by internalising the instructions. When you sit down to meditate you still have the teachers voice in the corner of your mind instructing you in what you are meant to be doing and how do to it. Eventually that voice becomes your own.
It is important to note that instructions and guidance are important like a map of an area, but once you have arrived at your location you put down the map.Similarly instructions and guidance are important but actually doing and experiencing what is being pointed to is the main objective not just mastering the map but experiencing the location. For example in calm abiding mindfulness training you must continually guide yourself back to your object of meditation, let’s say your breath, by first noticing your distracted and then guiding yourself back to focusing with relaxation on your breath, but when you are already focused on your breath there is nothing left to do and no guidance needed just remain calmly focusing on the breath.
In more advanced states of meditation it is very easy to mistake states of subtle sleepiness for the deep bliss of enlightenment. One master says it is the most common mistake to make, so it is very important to get guidance from an experienced teacher to guide past these dull states to the genuine clarity of awakening.
Also states of non thought and even bliss can be brought about due to causes and manipulative techniques but they are only temporary and fleeting states – they are not the sought after discovery of a transcendent nature which has similar experiences accompanying it. It is important to not get attached to these pleasant meditation experiences and keep going beyond them.
A teacher can also turn from being a gentle and kind guide to a fierce destroyer of your ego. Whenever a student comes to the teacher thinking they have found enlightenment or grasped the ultimate truth it is the teachers job to slap it out of them, leaving them nothing to grasp or hold on to. It is said the highest discovery in meditation is to find nothing, so when students mistakenly think they have found something guidance is important to steer them back unto the path of the ungraspable.
So when you have internalised the instructions and guidance whether by a group meditation or learning the instructions directly from a teacher or even from a book or the internet you can then meditate skilfully and reap the benefits and achieve your goals. Whether those goals are stress reduction, improving concentration or contacting a non dual enlightened presence hidden within. Finally a good teacher can help confirm your experiences and let you know if you have further to go or you have already arrived at your destination.

Written By Chad Foreman

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It has become common knowledge that green tea offers many health benefits, but if you’re anything like I was before writing this article, you don’t really know why, beyond its high antioxidant content, that’s the case.
I figured there must be more to this beverage to make it so highly regarded, particularly amongst Asian cultures, so I decided to do some research. And let me tell you, I was impressed by what I found.
Below are the top 10 benefits of a good organic green tea.

1. Green Tea Has Bioactive Compounds That Can Improve Health

Green tea is loaded with polyphenols such as flavonoids and catechins, which are b0th powerful antioxidants.
One of the most potent components of green tea is an antioxidant known as EGCG, or epigallocatchin-3-gallate, which been found to treat numerous diseases and could be the key to green tea’s many medicinal benefits.

2. Green Tea Can Improve Brain Functioning

Because green tea contains caffeine, drinking it can improve focus and concentration. A cup of green tea does not contain as much caffeine as coffee, however, making it less likely to leave you with the jitters and — if you’re anything like me — the heart palpitations to go along with it.
Caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine, which increases the firing of  concentration neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. It can also lead to improved mood, reaction time, and memory.
Aside from the caffeine, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to directly affect the central nervous system by interacting with the brain itself. It can increase the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which increases dopamine — the “feel good” chemical” — serotonin, and alpha waves within the brain.
Caffeine and L-theanine work synergistically, in fact, and the pairing is particularly good at improving brain function. I’m starting to wonder why I don’t have a warm mug beside me right now…

3. Some of the Antioxidants in Green Tea Can Lower Your Cancer Risk

Oxidative stress contributes to cancer development, and consuming more antioxidants — of which green tea is full — is one way to fight and protect against this damage.
A meta-analysis observational study found that women who drank the most green tea had a 22% lower risk of developing breast cancer, the most common cancer in women.
Another study found that men who drank green tea had a 48% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men.
study of 60,710 Chinese women found that those who were drinking green tea had a 57% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.

4. Green Tea Can Protect Your Brain in Old Age

Green tea can improve your short-term memory, but more importantly, it can help protect your brain from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, the two diseases most commonly developed in old age.
Studies conducted in test tubes and animal models have shown that the catechin compounds contained in green tea can have some protective effects on neurons, potentially lowering the risk of the above diseases.

5. Green Tea Can Kill Bacteria

Catechins can do more than just fight against disease, however. Some studies have shown that they can actually kill bacteria and inhibit viruses, which can, in turn, lower your risk of developing infections.
Further studies show how green tea can even combat bad breath, killing the bacteria that causes it in the first place.

6. Green Tea Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases, like heart disease and stroke, remain the leading causes of death around the world, and green tea can work against some of the main risk factors that lead to them.
Green tea drastically increases the antioxidant capability of the blood, which protects the LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, which is part of the paving process toward developing heart disease. Green tea drinkers just so happen to have a 28% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in fact.

7. Green Tea Increases Fat Burning and Improves Physical Performance

Human trials have shown that green tea increases fat burning by boosting the metabolic rate, with one study showing how green tea increased energy expenditure by 4% in ten healthy men.
Another study among healthy males showed that, when given green tea extract, fat oxidation increased by 17%.

8. Green Tea Can Help You Live Longer

Given the previous information showing how green tea can help lower the risk of various cancers and  disease, this may seem obvious, but further research shows that green tea has a direct effect on mortality risk. A study conducted on 40,530 Japanese adults showed that those who drank the most green tea, about five or more cups per day, were significantly less likely to die in an 11-year period than those who did not.
  • Death of all causes: 25% lower in women, 12% lower in men
  • Death from cardiovascular disease was: 31% lower in women, 22% lower in men
  • Death from stroke was: 42% lower in women, 35% lower in men
Another study conducted on 14,001 elderly Japanese people between the ages of 65-84 years found that those who drank the most green tea were 76% less likely to die during the study period of six years.

9. Green Tea Can Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Studies have shown that green tea can actually improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.
One study in particular, focused on Japanese individuals, found that those who drank the most green tea had a 42% lower risk of developing type II diabetes.
And in a review comprised of seven different studies and among 286,701 people, those who drank green tea regularly had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic.

10. Green Tea Can Help You Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Becoming Obese

As stated above, green tea can boost your metabolic rate, which in turn can help you to lose weight. Other studies have shown that drinking green tea can lead to a decrease in fat, particularly around the abdominal area, which is the most unhealthy type of fat to have and often the most difficult to lose.
In a randomized controlled trial conducted on 240 men and women for 12 weeks, for instance, the group that was drinking green tea showed significant decreases in body fat percentage, waist circumference, abdominal fat, and overall body weight.


Given all of the information listed above, it certainly couldn’t hurt to start drinking green tea! Just be sure to choose a high quality organic brand to avoid pesticide exposure and reduce your consumption of fluoride, which is almost always found in tea.
Much Love

What are “Conditioned Things” in Buddhism? BY BHIKKHU BODHI

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Reality may seem solid, says Bhikkhu Bodhi, but it is merely a reflection of unstable, conditioned processes, or sankharas, coming together with no one in charge

Milky Way, by Mihoko Ogaki, 2008.

Impermanent, alas, are conditioned things! Their very nature is to arise and vanish. Having arisen they then cease. Their subsiding is blissful!
In Theravada Buddhist lands, this verse is always recited at funerals to console the grievers over the death of a loved one. However, I have not quoted it here in order to begin an obituary. I do so simply to introduce a term that I wish to explore. The term is sankhara, one of those Pali words with such rich implications that merely to draw them out sheds abundant light on the Buddha’s understanding of reality.
The word occurs in the opening line of the above verse: Anicca vata sankhara, “Impermanent, alas, are conditioned things!” Sankhara is a plural noun derived from the prefix sam, meaning “together,” joined with the noun kara, meaning “doing” or “making.” The corresponding verb is sankharoti, “to put together” or “to compose,” which is sometimes augmented with another prefix to yield the verb abhisankharoti, which usually indicates that volition is involved in the process of “putting together” or composing. Etymologically, sankharas are thus “co-doings”: both things that act in unison with other things to produce an effect and the things produced by the combined action of those productive forces. Translators have rendered the word in many different ways: formations, confections, activities, processes, fabrications, forces, compounds, compositions, concoctions, determinations, synergies, constructions. All are clumsy, imprecise attempts to capture the meaning of a concept for which we have no exact parallel in English.
Although it may be impossible to discover an exact English equivalent for sankhara, by exploring its actual usage we can see how the word functions in the thought world of the Buddha’s teachings.

Sankharas in Dependent Origination

In the suttas, the word sankhara occurs in four major doctrinal contexts. One is the twelve-fold formula of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada), where the sankharas are the second link in the series, conditioned by ignorance and functioning as a condition for consciousness. Looking at statements from various suttas, we can see that the sankharas are the volitional activities responsible for producing karma and generating rebirth. They are thus the factors that shape our destiny as we revolve in samsara, the round of birth and death. In this context the word sankhara is virtually synonymous with kamma, a word to which it is etymologically akin. Both are derived from the verb karoti, meaning “to act, do, or make.”
The suttas distinguish the sankharas active in dependent origination into three types: bodily, verbal, and mental. Again, they are divided into the meritorious, demeritorious, and imperturbable—that is, the volitions present in the four formless meditations. When ignorance and craving underlie our stream of consciousness, our volitional activities of body, speech, and mind have a capacity to produce karmic fruits. The most significant fruit they produce is the renewal of the stream of consciousness following death. It is the sankharas, propped up by ignorance and fueled by craving, that drive the stream of consciousness onward to a new birth. Moreover, exactly where consciousness heads is determined by the karmic character of the sankharas. If one engages in meritorious deeds, the sankharas, or volitional activities, will propel consciousness toward a fortunate sphere of rebirth. If one engages in demeritorious deeds, the sankharas will propel consciousness toward a rebirth in a lower realm. And if one masters the formless meditations, the imperturbable sankharas will propel consciousness toward rebirth in the formless realms.

The Aggregate of Volitional Activities

A second major sphere to which the word sankharas applies is among the five aggregates. The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional activities. The texts explicitly define the sankhara-khandha as the six classes of volition (cha cetanakaya): volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas. Though these sankharas correspond closely to those in the formula of dependent origination, the two are not exactly the same. The sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional activities, has a wider range. It comprises all kinds of volition, not merely those volitions that are karmically potent but also those that are karmically passive and karmically inoperative.
The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned phenomena, is that they are all impermanent.
In the later Pali literature, the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are aggregates on their own. Thus the sankhara-khandha comes to include wholesome factors such as non-greed, non-hatred, and wisdom; unwholesome factors such as greed, hatred, and delusion; and ethically variable factors such as contact, attention, thought, and energy. Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is in the aggregate of volitional activities.

Sankharas as Conditioned Phenomena

The third major sphere in which the word sankhara occurs is as a designation for all conditioned things. In this context, the word has a passive sense, denoting whatever is produced by a combination of conditions—that is, whatever is conditioned, constructed, or fabricated. In this sense it might be rendered simply as “conditioned phenomena.” The Pali commentaries, in fact, explain this kind of sankharas as sankhata-sankhara, “sankharas consisting in the conditioned,” sankhata being the past participle of the verb sankharoti, from which sankhara is derived. As conditioned phenomena, sankharas include all five aggregates, not just the fourth aggregate. The term also includes external objects and phenomena such as mountains, fields, and forests; towns, cities, and villages; food and drink; and we can add to the classical list cars, iPhones, and computers.

Sankharas in the Stages of Meditation

The fourth context for the word sankhara is a meditative one. Here the word is used to refer to bodily, verbal, and mental phenomena in their relationship to the stages of meditation. We find this usage in Majjhima Nikaya sutta 44. Here, the bodily sankhara is identified with inhalation and exhalation “because these things are bodily, dependent on the body.” The verbal sankhara is identified with thought and examination “because first one thinks and examines, and then breaks out into speech.” The mental sankhara is identified with perception and feeling “because these things are mental, dependent on the mind.”
In the development of deeper meditative states, the verbal sankhara ceases with the attainment of the second jhana, in which thought and examination subside; the bodily sankhara ceases with the attainment of the fourth jhana, in which breathing stops; and the mental sankhara ceases with “the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.”

Putting the Brake to the Sankharas

The fact that sankharas can include both active forces and the things produced by them is highly significant and secures for the term its role as the cornerstone of the Buddha’s philosophical vision. What the Buddha teaches is that the sankharas in the two active senses—the volitional activities operative in dependent origination and the karmic volitions in the fourth aggregate—construct the sankharas in the passive sense: “They construct the conditioned; therefore they are called volitional activities. And what are the conditioned things they construct? They construct material form, feeling, perception, volitional activities, and conscious-ness; therefore they are called volitional activities” (Samyutta Nikaya 22:79).
When we put the word sankhara under our microscope, we can see compressed within it the entire worldview of the dhamma.
Though external inanimate things may arise from purely physical causes, the sankharas that make up our personal being—the five aggregates—are all products of the karmically active sankharas, particularly those we created in our previous lives. In the present life as well, the five aggregates are constantly being maintained, refurbished, and extended by the volitional activities we engage in now, which again become conditions for future existence. Thus, the Buddha teaches, it was our own karmically constructive sankharas that have built up our present edifice of personal being, and it is our present constructive sankharas that are building up the edifices of personal being we will inhabit in future lives. These edifices consist of nothing other than sankharas as conditioned things, the conditioned phenomena comprised in the five aggregates.
The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned phenomena, is that they are all impermanent: “Impermanent, alas, are sankharas.” They are impermanent not only in the sense that in their gross manifestations they will eventually cease to be, but even more pointedly because at the subtle level they are constantly undergoing rise and fall, forever coming into being and then, in a split second, breaking up and perishing: “Their very nature is to arise and vanish.” For this reason the Buddha declares that all sankharas are suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha). However, they are suffering not because they are all actually painful and stressful but because they are stamped with the mark of transience: “Having arisen, they then cease.” Because they all cease, they cannot provide stable happiness and security.
To win complete release from suffering, we must attain release not only from personal experiential suffering but also from the unsatisfactoriness intrinsic to all conditioned existence. This aspect of suffering is called sankhara-dukkha. It is the dimension of dukkha that is inseparable from our journey through the round of birth and death. What lies beyond the sankharas is that which is not constructed, not put together, not compounded. This is nibbana, which is accordingly called the unconditioned (asankhata)—the opposite of what is sankhata, constructed, put together, compounded. Nibbana is called the unconditioned precisely because it is a state that is neither itself a sankhara nor constructed by sankharas; it is a state described as visankhara, “devoid of conditioning activities, devoid of the conditioned,” and as sabbasankhara-samatha, “the stilling of all conditioned phenomena.”
Thus, when we put the word sankhara under our microscope, we can see compressed within it the entire worldview of the dhamma. The active sankharas comprising karmically active volitions perpetuate the sankharas of the five aggregates that constitute our being. We identify with the five aggregates because of ignorance, and we seek enjoyment in them because of craving. On account of ignorance and craving, we engage in volitional activities that build up future combinations of the five aggregates, which become our personal identities in successive lives. Just that is the nature of samsara: an unbroken procession of empty but efficient sankharas producing still other sankharas, rising up in fresh waves with each new birth, swelling to a crest, and then crashing down into old age, illness, and death. On and on it goes, shrouded in the del usion that we’re really in control, sustained by an ever-tantalizing, ever-receding hope of final satisfaction.
When, however, we take up the practice of the dhamma, we apply a brake to this relentless generation of sankharas. Through wisdom we remove ignorance; through renunciation we remove craving. We see with wisdom the true nature of the sankharas as unstable, conditioned processes rolling on with no one in charge. We thereby switch off the engine driven by ignorance and craving, and in doing so, the process of karmic construction—the production of active sankharas—is effectively shut down. By putting an end to the constructing of conditioned reality, we open the door to what is ever-present but not constructed, not conditioned: the asankhata-dhatu, the unconditioned element. This is nibbana, the deathless, the stilling of volitional activities, final liberation from all conditionings and thus from impermanence and death. Therefore, our verse concludes: “The subsiding of sankharas is blissful!”

Forgetting These 7 Little Things Makes Every Day More Stressful

Source & Credit: www.marcandangel.com
Image Credit:mysticmedusa.com

It never ceases to amaze me when I’m faced with the reality of how easily I lose sight of the truth – I catch myself stressing out over something silly, even though I know better.  And I know I’m not alone in my forgetfulness.  So much happens in our lives – so much chaos and distraction – that we often forget the important things we learned long ago.  Busy days and demanding obligations have a tendency to put our minds on autopilot, making us more reactive and less mindful every step of the way.
Therefore, some of life’s most important lessons need to be reviewed to be remembered.
Keep this short list handy and give it a read any time you catch yourself in one of those inevitable, forgetful moments of stress and frustration…

1.  You can’t lift a thousand pounds all at once.  Yet you can easily lift one pound a thousand times.  Tiny, repeated efforts will get you there.

Have you ever felt incredibly overwhelmed?
Well then, it’s time for a quick story about life…
Once upon a time there was a woman who had been lost in the desert for three whole days without water.  Just as she was about to collapse, she saw what appeared to be a lake just a few hundred yards in front of her.  “Could it be?  Or is it just a mirage?” she thought to herself.
With the last bit of strength she could muster, she staggered toward the lake and quickly learned that her prayers had been answered: it was no mirage – it was indeed a large, spring-fed lake full of fresh water – more fresh water than she could ever drink in her lifetime.  Yet while she was literally dying of thirst, she couldn’t bring herself to drink the water.  She simply stood by the water’s edge and stared down at it.
There was a passerby riding on a camel from a nearby desert town who was watching the woman’s bizarre behavior.  He got off his camel, walked up to the thirsty woman and asked, “Why don’t you have a drink, ma’am?”
She looked up at the man with an exhausted, distraught expression across her face and tears welling up in her eyes.  “I am dying of thirst,” she said, “But there is way too much water here in this lake to drink.  No matter what I do, I can’t possibly finish it all.”
The passerby smiled, bent down, scooped some water up with his hands, lifted it to the woman’s mouth and said, “Ma’am, your opportunity right now, and as you move forward throughout the rest of your life, is to understand that you don’t have to drink the whole lake to quench your thirst.  You can simply take one sip.  Just one small sip… and then another if you choose.  Focus only on the mouthful in front of you, and all your anxiety, fear and overwhelm about the rest will gradually fade.”
Take this story to heart.  Let it sink in…
And then challenge yourself throughout the day to focus solely on the sip (task, step, etc.) you’re actually taking.
Honestly, that’s all life is – small, positive actions that you take moment by moment, and then one day when you look back it all adds up to something worthwhile – something that’s often far better, and different, than what you had imagined when you started.

2.  When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting.  Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated.

The most common form of clutter in our lives?
And busyness is an illness.
Think about your own life and the lives of those close to you.  Most of us have a tendency to do as much as we possibly can – cramming every waking minute with events, extravagances, tasks and obligations.
We think doing more will get us more satisfaction, success, etc.  When oftentimes the exact opposite is true.
Less can be far more rewarding in the long run.  But we’re so set in our ways that we can’t see this.
And so…
  • When we work, we shift from one task to the next quickly and continuously, or we multi-task – juggling five things at once until the end of the day… and yet we still feel like we haven’t done enough of the right stuff.
  • When we finally break away for some healthy exercise, we tend to push ourselves as hard as we possibly can… until we’re exhausted and sore, and less likely to want to exercise tomorrow.
  • When we go to a nice restaurant, we want to try all the appetizers, drinks and entrees, indulging in as much deliciousness as we possibly can… and we leave feeling bloated, sometimes uncomfortably so, and then our waistlines stretch.
  • When we travel to a new city, we want to see it all – every landmark and every photo op – so we do as much as physically possible… and we return home from our trip utterly exhausted.
How can we tame our urge to do too much?
Simply focus more on doing less every step of the way.
Be mindful of the urge to over-do it.
It’s taken me awhile to get the hang of it, but I’m getting there…
  • When I’m working, I do just one thing at a time with full focus.  And when I catch myself multi-tasking or feeling overwhelmed, I’ll clear everything off my plate and make a list of just one to three key tasks I absolutely need to complete by the end of the day.  And yes, sometimes this list is just one thing long, because it helps me focus on what’s truly important and not feel overwhelmed.
  • When I went to the gym two days ago, I had the urge to push myself to my max.  I noticed this and instead decided to let that urge go.  I did a solid 45-minute workout, but left some fuel in my tank.  Yesterday, I went back to the gym and I put in another 45 minutes at a similar pace.  This morning, I would have been happy to do the same, but I decided to take a light jog instead.  My exercise regimen is sustainable, and that’s why I rarely injure myself or miss a day.
  • When I sit down at a nice restaurant, I don’t try to taste and eat as much as possible.  Instead, I leave the table satisfied, but not bloated.  I eat less than I used to.  This is something I still struggle with at times, because it isn’t easy.  It takes practice.  The result, however, is that I feel significantly better after each meal and my waistline thanks me.
  • When I travel to a new city, I don’t try to do it all.  I choose a few things to do, and I take my time.  I then leave the city knowing that there’s plenty to see on my next visit – I leave myself wanting more of a wonderful thing.
I hope you will join me on this journey.
Let’s do a little less… and make the less we do count for even more.

3.  The most powerful weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.  Train your mind to see the good in everything.

Being positive and seeing the good does not mean ignoring the negative.  Being positive and seeing the good means overcoming the negative.  There is a big difference between the two.
Of course, that’s easy to say.  But how do you actually change your perspective from negative to positive when life gets the best of you?
Here’s a simple strategy to start with…
Next time you catch a thought stressing you out, ask yourself these four questions that we’ve adapted from philosophical research by Alan Watts and Byron Katie:
  • Is this thought true? – This question can change your life. Be still and ask yourself if the thought you’re dealing with is true.
  • Can I be absolutely, 100% certain that it’s true? – This is another opportunity to open your mind and to go deeper into the unknown, to find the answers that live beneath what you think you know.  Think about some contrasting possibilities beyond the narrow viewpoint of this one stressful thought.
  • How do I feel when I think this thought? – With this question, you begin to notice internal cause and effect.  You can see that when you believe the thought, there is a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to outright panic and fear.  What do you feel?  How do you treat the situation (or person) you’re thinking about, how do you treat yourself, when you believe that thought?  Be specific.
  • Who would I be, and what would I do differently, if I were not thinking this thought? – Imagine yourself in your situation (or in the presence of that person), without believing the thought.  How would your life be different if you didn’t have the ability to even think this stressful thought?  How would you feel?  What else would you see?  Which do you prefer – life with or without the thought?  Which feels more peaceful and productive?
Just remember that behind every stressful feeling is an untrue thought.  Before the thought you weren’t suffering, but after the thought you began to suffer.  When you recognize that the thought isn’t true, once again there is no suffering.  When you change your thoughts, you gradually change your life.
The four questions above are just a starting point for revisiting and reframing the troubling or confusing situations that arise in your daily life.  From there you can challenge the stories you’re subconsciously telling yourself and reality-check them with a more objective mindset, which ultimately allows you to make better decisions about everything.
So challenge yourself to use this tool… to think differently.
Detach yourself from the negative thoughts you’re telling yourself.  Go deeper into reality.  Don’t just look at the surface.  Investigate.  Observe without jumping to conclusions.
Who knows what you’ll see when you stop looking through a lens drastically narrowed by half-truths, and you start seeing things with a clearer mind.  Maybe you’ll start seeing things you never saw before.  Maybe you’ll start experiencing things you never experienced before.  Maybe you’ll learn lots of new lessons you needed to learn.  And maybe you’ll gradually become the person you always knew you could be.  (Angel and I discuss this whole process in detail in the “Letting Go of Painful Emotions” lesson of Getting Back to Happy.)

4.  Happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now and sincerely embracing it for everything that it is.

Holding on can be painful.  Holding on can directly contribute to stress, health complications, unhappiness, depressive thoughts, relationship problems, and so on.
Yet, as human beings, we cling desperately to almost everything.
We don’t like change, so we resist it.
We want life to be the way we think it “should” be.
We get attached to our fantasies…. even when they hurt us.
Over the past decade, as Angel and I have gradually worked with hundreds of our course students, coaching clients, and live event attendees, we’ve come to understand that the root cause of most human stress is simply our stubborn propensity to hold on to things.  In a nutshell, we hold on tight to the hope that things will go exactly as we imagine, and then we complicate our lives to no end when our imagination doesn’t represent reality.
So how can we stop holding on?
By realizing that there’s nothing to hold on to in the first place.
Most of the things we desperately try to hold on to, as if they’re real, solid, everlasting fixtures in our lives, aren’t really there. Or if they are there in some form, they’re changing, fluid, impermanent, or simply imagined in our minds.
Life gets a lot easier to deal with when we understand this.
Imagine you’re blindfolded and treading water in the center of a large swimming pool, and you’re struggling desperately to grab the edge of the pool that you think is nearby, but really it’s not – it’s far away. Trying to grab that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash around aimlessly trying to holding on to something that isn’t there.
Now imagine you pause, take a deep breath, and realize that there’s nothing nearby to hold on to. Just water around you. You can continue to struggle with grabbing at something that doesn’t exist… or you can accept that there’s only water around you, and relax, and float.
Today, I challenge you to ask yourself:
  • What are you desperately trying to hold on to in your life?
  • How is it affecting you?
Then imagine the thing you’re trying to hold on to doesn’t really exist. Envision yourself letting go… and just floating.
How would that change your situation?
Bottom line: We cause 99% our own problems by holding on too tightly, to everything.
But we can get out of our own way, and find harmony, by letting go.

5.  If the grass looks greener on the other side, it might just be life reminding you to water the grass you’re standing on.

Rather than focusing on what you don’t have and begrudging those who are “better off” than you, perhaps you should acknowledge that you have lots to be grateful for.
Most of us have amazing family members, friends, and other loved ones who love us back.  Learn to appreciate what a gift that is.  Most of us have good health, which is another gift.  Most of us have eyes, with which to enjoy the amazing gifts of sunsets and nature and beauty all around us.  Most of us have ears, with which to enjoy music – one of the greatest gifts of them all.
You may not have all these things, because you can’t have everything, but you certainly have enough.  You have plenty of good things in your life that you can focus on and build upon today.  If you’re still struggling to find something right now, start here:
  • You are alive.
  • You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
  • You didn’t go to sleep outside.
  • You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning.
  • You haven’t spent a minute in fear for your life today.
  • You know someone who loves you.
  • You have access to clean drinking water.
  • You have access to medical care.
  • You have access to the Internet.
  • You can read.
Be honest: when was the last time you were appreciative for simply being alive, or going to sleep with a full belly?  More specifically, think of all the little things you experience — the smell of a home-cooked meal, hearing your favorite song when it randomly comes on the radio, seeing a marvelous sunset, etc.
Look around you today, and water the grass you’re standing on!

6.  When people are rude and judgmental to you, smile and choose not to react.  Travel the high road.  Keep your peace.  Do so, and you take all their power away.

You will end up extremely disappointed if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them.  Not everyone has the same heart as you.
Truth be told, being emotionally strong and committed to a cause doesn’t mean you have to stay and fight all the battles and petty arguments that come your way.  It means just the opposite – you don’t have to stay and respond to other people’s rude remarks and unnecessary hostility.  When you encounter someone with a bad attitude, don’t respond by throwing insults back at them.  Keep your dignity and don’t lower yourself to their level.  True strength is being bold enough to walk away from the nonsense with your head held high.
You need to remember that life is not about justifying yourself – it’s about creating yourself.  Your life is yours alone.  Others can judge you and try to persuade you to their point of view, but they can’t decide anything for you.  They can walk with you if they choose, but not in your shoes.  So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and best judgment, and don’t be scared to walk alone and pave your own path when doing so feels right under your feet.
Make this your lifelong motto: “I respectfully do not care.”  Say it to anyone who passes unfriendly judgment on something you strongly believe in or something that makes you who you are.  People will inevitably judge you at some point anyway, and that’s OK.  You affected their life; don’t let them affect yours.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

7.  You cannot control exactly what happens in life, but you can control how you respond to it all.  In your response is your greatest power.

If there’s one thing all six of the previous points have in common, it’s the importance of responding to life’s surprises and challenges more effectively.  When you can let go of needless ideals, judgments, and self-pity parties, you give yourself the space required to respond to life’s difficult situations more effectively… and that changes everything.
And this applies to everyday difficulties too, not just life’s larger scale catastrophes.  For example, when my 2-year-old son, Mac, dumped his dinner plate on the floor last night, I could have gotten upset (“He knows better and he shouldn’t do that!”) and scream (not effective at all), or I could have done exactly what I did and simply let go of that ideal – that judgment – and the resulting tension, and then calmly explain the situation to Mac while helping him clean it up (and yes he actually helped too).  My response was indeed the more effective option.
Regardless of the situation at hand, when we respond in emotional haste and angst, we only compound our problems.  Taking a deep breath, or ten, and responding calmly means we’re going to be able to better handle any difficult situation, whether it’s an emergency or the unexpected loss of a loved one or a 2-year-old’s belligerent misconducts.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done.  So if you’re struggling to change your response to an unexpected life situation right now, start by evaluating the tension in your body and posture.  I bet you can find some kind of tightness.  For me, it’s often in my neck, but sometimes it’s in my back and shoulders.
Where does this tension we feel come from?  We’re resisting life – perhaps we’re annoyed by someone, frustrated at our circumstances, overwhelmed by all our obligations, or just flat out bored.  And our mental resistance creates a tension in our bodies and unhappiness in our lives.  Therefore, Angel and I often recommend this simple strategy to our course students who are struggling to relieve themselves of their resistance and tension:
  • Locate the tension in your body right now.
  • Notice what you’re resisting and tensing up against – it might be a situation or person you’re dealing with or avoiding.
  • Relax the tense area of your body – deep breath and a quick stretch often helps.
  • Face the same situation or person, but with a relaxed body and mind.
Repeat this practice as often as needed.  Face the day with less tension and more presence.  Change your mode of response from one of struggle and resistance to one of peace and acceptance.  And see how doing so changes your life.

Your turn…

If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?

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