Easter around the world.

Carol Kuruvilla  tells us  “The word Easter has been linked to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and new life.”

We exchange  The Easter egg as the symbol for new life  and the Christian promise for eternal love and eternal life. The image of the butterfly, new life, rising from the death of the caterpillar is also being used to remind us ,that where there is life there is hope.

“For Christians, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ — and arguably the most important date on the religious calendar. Easter marks the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and reflection. The day holds the promise of victory over death, a new life and the forgiveness of sins.”

Young goddess photo by Frank Kovalckek Flikr.com

Young goddess photo by Frank Kovalckek Flikr.com

 lightChristians  believe the Christ – ed one came to the Earth to bring the light of Peace to the Earth and over come the old Testament teachings of an eye for an eye.

Carol writes “Since the Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, Passover falls on 14 Nisan, the 14th day of the first full moon of spring. Christians in Asia Minor used to remember the crucifixion on the 14 Nisan, and celebrate the resurrection on 16 Nisan. But this meant that Easter could fall on any day of the week. On the other hand, Christians in the West celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after 14 Nisan.

In 325, the Roman Emperor Constantine I gathered bishops from around his empire at the Council of Nicaea to hammer out a solution to this and other debates raging in the early church. The council decided that Easter would be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Easter celebrated in western countries, there’s no escaping the Easter Bunny and his colorful basket of eggs. But across the world, Christians have developed many interesting ways of marking the holiday. In Sweden, young girls dress up as Easter Witches and travel from house to house looking for treats. In some parts of Latin America and Greece, Christians burn effigies of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. In Venezuela last year, some protesters used the holiday to burn an effigy of their president, Nicolas Maduro. Bermudan Christians fly brightly colored kites on Good Friday to represent Christ’s ascension to heaven.

In Spain, some Christians don cloaks and pointed hoods to participate in eerie night-time processions. The parades are organized by local religious brotherhoods. The participants — called penitents, or sinners — carry crucifixes and religious icons through the streets to act out the Easter story. According to centuries-old tradition, the penitents wear capirotes, or tall pointed hats, so that their neighbors don’t know the identity of the sinner behind the mask.

By the 16th century, scholars had realized that the Roman Empire’s Julian calendar was out of sync with the solar year — and that Easter was falling further away from the spring equinox. In an effort to close the gap, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar. But because of old religious rivalries, Protestants in Europe were dead set against the change. It wasn’t until 1752 that England adopted the Gregorian calendar. On that day, the country skipped forward 11 days overnight, going from Wednesday, September 2, to Thursday, September 14. The Gregorian calendar is still the most widely used civil calendar today.

Eastern Orthodox churches (Armenian, Greek and Russian Orthadox) still use the Julian calendar to calculate religious holidays. As a result, while most of the Western world will celebrate Easter on April 5 this year, Orthodox churches are celebrating on April 12.

The word Easter has been linked to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and new life. Other scholars trace the name of the holiday to the Latin phrase “hebdomada alba,” which means “white week.” According to tradition, new Christians were baptized into the faith on Easter while wearing white clothes. The phrase evolved into “eostarum” in Old High German, becoming “Ostern” in modern German and “Easter” in English.

But in many other languages, the word for Easter is still deeply tied to Passover, the festival that celebrates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Jesus was crucified soon after he arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast.

The Orthodox Church calls Easter “Pascha.” In French, the holiday is known as “Pâques.” In Spanish, it is “Pascua,” and in Dutch, “Pasen.” So beautifully explained, so all I need to do is wish you and yours a sacred and safe Easter.

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Wild Women are a blessing – International Women’s Day.

Sunday last was International Women,s Day. 8th March.

As I could not find a lot of articles, celebrating the day in our newspapers, I’ve written my own. I believe in celebrating successes,  for too many people live lives of desperation.

With the help of one woman author I respect.“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

As I believe all people are born talented and have come to contribute, something that they alone can give.  This does not and cannot fit the modern mould of being a certain shape, size, etc

“It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a ‘hungry’ one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The ‘hungry’ one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

“When we lose touch with the instinctive psyche, we live in a semi-destroyed state and images and powers that are natural to the feminine are not allowed for development. When a women is cut away from her basic source, she is sanitised, and her instincts and natural life cycles are lost, subdued by the culture, or by the intellect or the ego- one’s own or those belonging to others.”

Any time we spend time in our inner silence we are guaranteed increase of blessings. For this we do not need to do anything , only go within and listen. But we have been taught otherwise and come to rely on the busi-ness of our lives, and are often defined by this. The cost is we loose the wise woman guide within. And the cost to the wider world is immeasurable.

woman-66466_1280 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“When a woman is frozen of feeling, when she can no longer feel herself, when her blood, her passion, no longer reach the extremities of her psyche, when she is desperate; then a fantasy life is far more pleasurable than anything else she can set her sights upon. Her little match lights, because they have no wood to burn, instead burn up the psyche as though it were a big dry log. The psyche begins to play tricks on itself; it lives now in the fantasy fire of all yearning fulfilled. This kind of fantasizing is like a lie: If you tell it often enough, you begin to believe it.”

“A women’s  issues of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually  acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness. No that is what has already caused millions of women who began as strong and natural powers to become outsiders in our own cultures. Instead the goal must be the retrieval and succor of women’s beauteous and natural psychic form.”

Traditional psychology is often  spare or entirely silent about deeper issues important to women the archetypal, the intuitive, the sexual and cyclical, the ages of women, a woman’s way, A woman’s knowing, the creative fire.

Through Meditation we seek the contact and the blessing of Grace, to enter our lives and calm the storms within. Mantra and music give us a pathway in to this sacred place Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes it as

“She comes to us through sound as well; through music which vibrates the sternum, excites the heart; it comes through the drum, the whistle, the call and the cry. It comes through the written and spoken word; sometimes a word, a sentence or poem or a  story, is so resonant, so right, It causes us to remember, at least for an instant, what substance we’re really made from, and where is our true home.

“When women reassert their relationship with the widest nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, and  an oracle, and inspiratrice , an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener, who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds.When women are with the wild woman, the fact of that relationship glows through them. This wild teacher, wild mother, wild mentor supports their inner and outer lives no matter what.”

So though meditation, yoga, story telling, art, poetry painting dance, movement or stillness, craft we remember how we can awaken within the very depths of our being wonder, magic and medicine.

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Sand in my Meditation

book and serenity , how amazing

The sand still held the warmth from the day. It was silky to the touch.I let it play through my fingers,settling in to a comfortable seating position for meditation. A curious seagull, keeping  a safe distance approached,watching, waiting, hoping the Fella would catch a fish to share.

It was the Fellas idea, on our evening dog walk, he was muttering something about the tides and the wind, suddenly announcing he would go fishing and would I like to come?

My head was full of what are we having for dinner ?And what vegetables I needed to prepare. Slightly annoyed that he would choose now when my tummy was rumbling, I grumpily said  Oh O.K.

Well why not? Only habit dictates we eat our evening meal at that time.” Yes I can be open to spontaneity.

“This is the ever-changing, impermanent nature of you. And in truth, every single thing around you is changing all the time, sometimes in less obvious ways. Everyone around you is changing. Each moment is a fluid snapshot of impermanent changing entities, interacting with each other.” http://www.zenhabits.com

So here I am seated on the sand, as the day changes to evening , the colours around me soften,sharp edges smooth out, the horizon line glows and cloud wisps tinge mauve and silver.   I am so glad I was invited to this beautiful moment.Just He and I and three other fishermen  far down at the distant curve of the beach.

Leo Babauta reminds us”and there are the particulars of the moment that only exist, right now. The combination of sounds and colors and shapes and smells around you will never exist in this particular combination ever again. The way your body feels, the thought that pops into your head in the next moment, will never exist again, ever.”

As I close my eyes and prepare to let thoughts come …let thoughts go, I am aware of the sound  of the waves. This will be a meditation of activating my sense of listening.The moment I close my eyes, and begin to slow my breath, sounds are louder and clearer.

I can hear the underlying soft  water sound that flows between and under the sound of the  waves.My mind flows between the two sounds, water softly flowing and waves coming to shore.And  then returns to breath. Listening being still. As my focus is entirely taken up with these, other thoughts can drop away. The worries and burdens I heap on myself are no longer important. My body nestles into sands softness. I can let go and allow the sand to support me. Let go  of mind, as the waves flow, so my mind flows.

As the sea is constantly changing the sands eternally shifting so too is the person I know as me.

“You yourself are changing all the time. We think of ourselves as one unchanging entity, but the self that you are right now is different than the one you were before you read this article. And that was different than the one who woke up this morning, because various things interacted with you to change you in small (or large) ways.” writes Leo.

That’s the reality of this moment. Don’t miss it.

And this awareness is available to you all the time. Throughout the day, as you start to worry and get lost in your tasks, ask yourself, “What’s the reality of this moment?”

No fish for dinner last night, but the serenity was healing beyond measure.fishing in the evening

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How am I creating my Life? try Meditation.

I suspect we often forget that we are the co- creators of our lives. That lovely sentence I am a work in progress is often said with out thought.

A wise woman wrote:

“Your experiences always reflect your inner beliefs.
You can literally look at your experiences and determine what your beliefs are.
Maybe it’s disturbing  to consider, but if you look at the people in your life , they are all mirroring some belief you have about yourself.
If you are always being criticised at work, it is probably because you are critical and have become the parent who once criticised the child.Everything in our lives is a mirror of who we are When something is happening out there that is not comfortable we have an opportunity to look in side and say,

“How am I contributing to this experience? What is it within me that believes I deserve this?’’ _ Louise L Hay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The quote above in my photo is by Henry David Thoreau.

The inner critic is like water dripping on rock, relentless and in our mind very destructive.
Don’t worry, maybe you have never been taught to deal with this ever talking inner voice.

But do we try to love ourselves unconditionally? Asks Leo Babauta in  his blog zenhabits

“Consider whether you do any of these (I sure do):

Criticize your body.
Feel like you need to improve at things.
Feel guilty about things you do.
Feel undisciplined, lazy, unhappy with yourself.
Not feel good enough.
Fear that you’re going to fail, because you’re not good enough.
See yourself as not that good looking.
Feel bad about messing up.
For many of us, there’s an underlying feeling of not being good enough, wanting to be better, wanting to be in better shape or better at things. This isn’t something we think about much, but it’s there, in the background.”

“We can recreate our lives in the Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”

beautifulI encourage you to sit for  a little time each day and invite changeinto your life. Maybe initially you will need to keep a journal on what you wish to change, what could be improved. Without criticising yourself, as you find things you wish were different.  like the rose you can bloom in any situation. Learn to look within and find quiet place. This is the source from which unconditional love arises.

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Meditation -Rebuilding veterans Lives – PTSD

Rachael Brown reports “They taught us how to go to war but not how to come home.”

Army

Army

the www. abc.news.com/ AM with Chris Uhlmann.

“PTSD wave expected to hit as Australian troops return from Afghanistan.”

“Many veterans find it difficult to tolerate the images and emotions of combat that can come flooding back,  Veteran Roy Clymer said. “Meditation helps us tolerate feeling and emotion.”

Or, as one veteran put it after the meditation drew to a close, “I don’t have to react to everything. This helps me think first. People are going to do things whether I get angry or stay calm, and I’d rather stay calm. I always feel like a new person after this.”

meditation to heal

In Australia “One of the barriers  facing many young War veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq is that they don’t feel they belong in the RSL clubs or  support structures set up following the world wars and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, leaving them unsure of where to turn for help” says Scott Hannaford in an excellent article “The Silent War.”wwwfairfaxmedia.com

American Veteran Joe Craig went to Vietnam as an Army private in 1967, so young his platoon sergeant had to show him how to shave. He served 20 years in the Army, and then another 18 as a federal police officer. Now 73, Craig struggles with the demons of his war service.

“When you go to war, every day is about getting through that day,” he said. With danger all around, as a soldier or a cop, he added, “if you let your mind float, you’ll be in big trouble. We’ve all been to the edge.” In meditation, with the guidance of a skilled therapist, he said, “I can let my mind float.”

These aren’t simply feel-good sessions, meditation advocates say. Meditation helps create new muscle memory, actually rewiring the brain to enable veterans to absorb and recover from stress. This brain “rewiring” is what neuroscientists recognize as neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change neural pathways. For patients with PTSD, it means increasing their ability to hold disturbing images and memories without reacting in an emotionally negative way.

“Meditation’s big thing is to stop your mind,” says Roy Clymer, a Vietnam combat veteran and psychologist who worked with wounded Iraq and Afghan war soldiers for 13 years as director of specialized care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington. “As you develop skill at meditation, you gain the art of acknowledging an emotion when it comes, accepting it — but not doing what we usually do, which is immediately reacting to it.”

Many veterans find it difficult to tolerate the images and emotions of combat that can come flooding back, Clymer said. “Meditation helps us tolerate feeling and emotion.”

Or, as one veteran put it after the meditation drew to a close, “I don’t have to react to everything. This helps me think first. People are going to do things whether I get angry or stay calm, and I’d rather stay calm. I always feel like a new person after this.”

Meditation in particular is useful because patients can use it themselves as part of their own treatment plan. “It allows patents to take more control over how their disease is managed and this generally leads to healthier outcomes,” said Ezeji-Okoye.

Dr. Jan Kemp, associate director of the VA’s Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention and a senior mental health expert, oversaw a demonstration project on meditation at nine VA facilities involving several hundred patients with PTSD.

“Essentially we found that meditation was a positive thing, and that while it didn’t cure PTSD in any way, shape or form, surely it needed to be a supplement” to traditional therapy, she said.

Patients who participated in the meditation “did feel better,” Kemp said. “And isn’t that the most important thing?”

Joseph Hart  tells us “British soldiers experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a drastically lower rate than their American counterparts.”  www.UTNE.com

“They fight the same battles with similar weapons and training. But when it comes to aftershock, British and U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report very different experiences. Soldiers in the United States experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a rate of 30 percent. Brits: 4 percent.”

“Another explanation is the stark difference between how the two governments deploy their troops. U.K. rules prohibit soldiers from spending more than 13 months in combat during a three-year period, and average tours of duty are six months—half the length of American soldiers’”

“Even more important are programs that send U.K. soldiers for a few days of “third location decompression” on the island of Cyprus before returning them to their home communities. “One to four days of R&R on a Mediterranean island with members of the same fighting unit apparently helps veterans come home with an easier mind.” reports http://www.miller-mccune.com

Neil Greenberg, the British coauthor of a study published this year by the U.K.’s Royal Society of Medicine and reported in Miller-McCune (July-Aug., 2011). “In the U.K., our national approach towards psychological distress is ‘Crack on with it if you can.’ ” The study found that British combat vets tend to drink more and report a higher incidence of milder diagnoses, like depression.

Meditation in particular is useful because patients can use it themselves as part of their own treatment plan. “It allows patents to take more control over how their disease is managed and this generally leads to healthier outcomes,” said Ezeji-Okoye.

But that’s an uphill battle, said Robin Carnes, a senior yoga and meditation teacher who led yoga and meditation programs at Walter Reed for six years. Carnes, a co-founder of Warriors at Ease, said it’s difficult to find funding from military installations and communities for meditation groups.

There’s also the perception issue, she said, “a cultural divide between what people think meditation is — sitting on a mountaintop looking for nirvana — and something that has relevant and practical health benefits for servicemembers and families. That’s the challenge.”

Still, acceptance of meditation among veterans and the military is improving, says Karen Soltes, who led the group at the VA medical center in Washington. As it is, the meditation group she leads has never been given a permanent space, and veterans often get lost trying to find out where the group is meeting on a particular day.

“But eight or 10 years ago when I started, there was a lot more resistance. We’ve come light years,” she said.

For the veterans who participate, meditation can be a lifesaver. Al Crawley, 65, has been coming to the D.C. meditation group for years. He fought in Vietnam in 1969 and retired as a sergeant.

“The war is still penetrating all through us,” he said. “That’s what brought us here. I had to deal with it — it was killing me.”

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Meditation – powerful enough to change your brain

Centering

Meditation is more powerful than we originally thought.

Some ‘doubting Thomas’ types will say that there is no proof that Meditation works.

Do you sometimes feel you are not good enough, do not have enough, do not earn enough. enough?   You ware not alone in that, we are brought up to compete, to do better, be smarter and yet, we loose the Truth of who we are in the mad scramble to achieve more .

By adding stillness into our day we can change our heart rate, lower our blood pressure.Well don’t take my word for it see the scientific evidence below.

Alena Hall explains in her article published in Huffingtonpost.com

A recent study from Harvard University and the University of Sienna found that the powers of meditation move beyond the cultivation of self-awareness, improvement of concentration and protection of the heart and immune system — it can actually alter the physiology of the human brain. Consistent practice can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who often need it most.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists selected 24 subjects who had never meditated before and guided them through an 8-week meditation course. Each participant completed a two-and-a-half hour session each week, where they learned about various components and styles of a meditation practice. Outside of the weekly session, they each meditated for 45 minutes daily.

Data gathered from the MRIs conducted before and after the meditation program, along with psychological evaluations,revealed that the subjects experienced a thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception. Such changes strengthen the body’s physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.

Alena says”For the increasing number of us struggling with the overwhelming demands of our lives, reserving a little time each day to tune into ourselves might not be such a bad idea. It takes a little prioritizing in an already-busy schedule, but the proven benefits can be well worth the effort.”

How to introduce space into your day.

Start simply; Maybe you can glimpse a green tree or greenery from your office,gaze at the colour green to rest your eyes, rest your mind.

The sky is a healing field, stars at night. Firstly get comfortable with space and silence. Just glimpses and then find the teacher you can relate to  and jump in. Remember  Meditation is powerful enough to change your brain and improve your life.

“Subjects experienced a thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception. Such changes strengthen the body’s physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.”

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Are you stressed?

photo by r.nial bradshaw

photo by r.nial bradshaw


Stress raises  cortisole levels in the bloodExtreme stress can also wreak havoc on your sleep.

A study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that our stress levels have steadily increased over the years — but the good news is, our worry tends to decrease with age, as the chart above shows. Financial concerns are also a major influence on how stressed we feel.

These kinds of results seem to be pretty universal across the board. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America Survey, money is the biggest contributor to stress. Women are also more stressed out than men. no surprise there girls.
These statistics may sound dismal, but there is a bright side: Managing these emotions is entirely in our control

Meditation

Research also shows socializing, May I suggest volunteering the sense of caring releases the hormones that heal, or see my blog on smiling.)

Yoga for calmness
exercising ( I suggest yoga, with the family here I had no time to teach classes and became a grumpy bear.)
and adopting a meditation practice can also help ease tension.
1 Amasingly studies have shown the smell of citrus can reduce stress Peel an Orange.

2 Take a walk in Nature remember the colour green calms us.

3 Read a book one chapter each day

4 Keep a diary write down your worries.

5 Spend time with your friends

6 Learn to breathe calmly and peacefully.(Yoga)

7 Spend time with an animal, they know how to relax.

8 Listen to Mozart

9 Try aromatherapy. A study conducted in 2009 found for high school students in particular, this was a very effective for releasing stress.

10 Laugh out loud often.

Lindsay Holmes says”Chronic worrying could be a sign of bigger health issues.
Prioritizing your physical health means caring for your mental health
If your stress is starting to regularly affect your life , in all it’s aspects– producing physical symptoms or loss of fun in things you once found pleasurable — you may want to consider seeking more help from professionals.”

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