The Transforming Power of Mindful Prayer

Healthy Living – The Huffington Post
The Transforming Power of Mindful Prayer
Although not always highlighted in the West, prayer and devotion are a living stream in Buddhism. The earnest wishes expressed in the practices of lovingkindness and compassion — may I be happy, may You be free from suffering — are forms of prayer. The aspiration to find refuge in the Buddha (or Buddha “awakened” nature) is an expression of devotion to truth and freedom.

When we’re suffering and turn to prayer, no matter what the apparent reasons for our pain, the basic cause is always the same: we feel separate and alone. John O’Donohue, in his book Eternal Echoes, writes: “Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging.” This is a beautiful description of what I call mindful prayer. We reach not just outward to know our belonging, but with mindful prayer we also turn inward and listen deeply to the suffering that is giving rise to our prayer. When we are willing to touch the pain of separation — the loneliness, the fear, the hurt — our longing carries us to the tender and compassionate presence that is our awakened nature.

I experienced the transforming power of mindful prayer some years ago when I was suffering from a broken heart. I’d fallen in love with a man who lived 2,000 miles away, and because we couldn’t weave our lives together, the relationship ended. The loss was crushing, and while I accepted my grieving process for the first month or so, as it went on and on I felt more excruciatingly lonely than I’d ever felt in my life.

In the room where I meditate, I have a Tibetan scroll painting (called a thangka) of the bodhisattva of compassion. Known as Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China, she’s an embodiment of healing and compassion. One morning, as I sat crying in front of the thangka, feeling crushed and worthless, I found myself praying to Kwan Yin, wanting to be held in her compassionate embrace.

For a while, this seemed to help. Yet one morning, I hit a wall. What was I doing? My ongoing ritual of aching, praying, crying, and hating my suffering was not really moving me towards healing. Kwan Yin suddenly seemed like an idea I’d conjured up to soothe myself. Yet without having her as a refuge, I now had absolutely nowhere to turn, nothing to hold on to, no way out of the empty hole of pain.

At that moment, even though it seemed like just another concept, I remembered that, for the aspiring bodhisattva, suffering is the trusted gateway to awakening the heart. I remembered that when I’d remained present with pain in the past, something had indeed changed. I suddenly realized that maybe this situation was about really trusting suffering as the gateway. Maybe that was the whole point — I needed to stop fighting my grief and loneliness, no matter how horrible I was feeling or for how long it continued.

I recalled the bodhisattva’s aspiration: “May this suffering serve to awaken compassion,” and began quietly whispering it inside. As I repeated the prayer over and over, I could feel my inner voice grow less desperate, more sincere. I knew it was true — I could awaken to the love I yearned for by directly touching the fullness of this suffering. The moment I let go into that truth, the change began.

That day in my meditation room, as I let the loneliness cut more deep, scarcely able to bear the searing pain of it, I realized that I was longing — not for a particular person, but for love itself. I was longing to belong to something larger than my lonely self.

As I let go into the yearning, I distinctly sensed Kwan Yin as a radiant field of compassion surrounding me, cherishing my hurting, vulnerable being. As I surrendered into her presence, my body began to fill with light. I was vibrating with a love that embraced the whole of this living world — it embraced my moving breath, the singing of birds, the wetness of tears and the endless sky.

Dissolving into that warm and shining immensity, I no longer felt any distinction between my heart and the heart of Kwan Yin. All that was left was an enormous tenderness tinged with sadness. The compassionate Beloved I had been reaching for “out there” was my own awakened being.

Whenever we pray, we might begin by reaching out, and in that way remember the warmth and safety of connectedness. Yet, we ground our prayer by reaching inward to the raw feelings of loneliness and fear. Like a great tree, mindful prayer sinks its roots into the dark depths in order to reach up fully to the light. When the pain is deep, the more fully we touch it, the more fully we release ourselves prayerfully into boundless, compassionate presence.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance (2003).

For a guide to prayer click here.

Enjoy this talk on Loving kindness.

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For more by Tara Brach, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

Coffee Benefits: What Your Coffee Says About You
Drink your coffee black? Odds are you’re a purist whose virtues include patience and efficiency and whose personality flaws include moodiness and inflexibility.

That’s according to “You Are Why You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life,” by Los Angeles-based psychologist Ramani Durvasula who conducted a survey of 1,000 coffee drinkers and connected the way people drank their cup of Joe to personality traits, reported PsychCentral.com.

For the research, participants were presented with everyday scenarios such as waiting in line, organizing dinner parties, and how they spend their weekends. They were then asked to reveal how they typically manage such situations and how they drink their coffee.

Predictably, black coffee drinkers in the survey shared the following personality traits and attitudes: They’re straightforward, no-nonsense individuals who are “old school” purists and can be moody and quiet, abrupt and dismissive. They’re also described as set in their ways and resistant to change.

In the same way latte drinkers soften the bitterness of coffee with milk and sugar, the main characteristics these people share are that they tend to be comfort seekers and people pleasers who are helpful and generous with their time. They also have a habit of overextending themselves and don’t take good care of themselves, researchers said.

Know people whose morning coffee order requires a laundry list of demands and takes 30 seconds to rhyme off? Are you that coffee snob? Do you take soy milk in your cup of decaf? According to Durvasula’s research, this category of coffee drinker tends to be obsessive, perfectionist, selfish, health conscious, overly sensitive and rigid.

This isn’t the first time psychologists have tried to connect our food preferences with our personality styles. In another “You are what you eat” study conducted this summer for Baskin-Robbins, a neurologist and psychiatrist also connected personality traits with ice cream flavors. Vanilla lovers are described as impulsive, easily suggestible and idealist, while chocolate lovers tend to be dramatic, lively, charming, flirtatious and seductive.

Burger King ‘Satisfries,’ New Lower-Calorie French Fries, Leave Us Decently ‘Satisfried’
On Tuesday, Burger King launched a new crinkle-cut french fry that has about 20 percent fewer calories than the chain’s regular fries. These “Satisfries,” which have 270 calories for a small serving size compared to the 340 calories in the same serving of regular fries, use a new batter that doesn’t absorb as much oil.

But is a 70-calorie “savings” worth it? The new crinkle-cut version, which are significantly thicker than the regular, have a creamier and much more profound potato taste. Three of our 10 tasters preferred it to the original. The outer coating was noticeably thinner than the regular ones. But the original fries tasted well, more fried, and a bit saltier.

All tasters agreed that when you decide to eat french fries in the first place, you aren’t that concerned about the calories. You’re probably going to smother these fries in ketchup anyway, right? At that point, the taste difference becomes subtle at best. If you really want solid fast food french fries, everyone still craved McDonald’s fries over Burger King’s.

The regular fries are actually fairly new in their own right. Burger King revamped its french fries less than two years ago to create a thicker and less salty version. When we tasted the then-new version alongside both McDonald’s and Wendy’s regular fries, Wendy’s was the obvious loser. Burger King took second to McDonald’s by a very small margin.

If the crinkle-cut fries aren’t enough to draw more patrons to Burger King stores, perhaps the other new french fry item — a burger with four french fries on top of the patty — will. Then again, even Burger King seems to understand how silly that idea is. In the product advertisement, a young girl claims that Burger King “stole” her idea. Because yes, pretty much anyone can think to put some french fries on a burger.

As Burger King embraces the crinkle-cut fry, Shake Shack is slowly distancing itself from it. The growing burger chain recently introduced “fresh cut” fries to one location in Manhattan, with more likely on the way.

Maybe if Burger King really wants to innovate, it should debut curly fries. Now that sounds satisfrying.

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Get Reel, Speak Real From the Heart
I research and view many sizzle reels and videos of speakers, it is the tedious part of the work I choose to do for The California Women’s Conference. It is important to me to bring speakers to the conference that will inspire, motivate, educate and bring a fun, positive, fresh spirit to the stage. Researching and finding speakers with relevant topics who can speak from the heart, and have a connection with the audience is not easy to find. I must admit, I often get bored hearing the same thing over and over and if the first 60 seconds does not spark a nerve or an emotion within me, there is a good chance I will lose interest and discontinue watching their reel. So I guess you could say I have become a hard sell and expect greatness from the speakers who claim they are motivational speakers. I am on the hunt for something original and spoken from a knowing place… the heart.

Now with that being said, I have to mention, I too am walking up the speaker path and have been invited to speak on stages this year, speaking to living with passion and on purpose. The first thing my marketing guru says, “Rose Tafoya, you have to do a sizzle reel and download onto your new website.” I am thinking, easy enough. I have been watching plenty of reels and feel like a sizzle reel pro, I know what and what not to do. I reply out loud, “That will be easy, a two- to three-minute reel, no problem, I can do that.”

Here comes my “aha” moment… I was with my videographer and we chose to shoot out at the zoo to get some great natural back drop scenery. As I began to speak into the camera, my mind was distracted by the noises that surrounded us and I could not say what I wanted to say without rambling or stuttering my words. I was not connecting my language with my heart. What was being filmed was flat, boring and was not heartfelt. It was much manipulated and it just did not feel right. That’s when I realized, this could be what happens for many of the speakers who make a flat sizzle reel when they have a great message to share. What we were missing that morning at the zoo was a live audience and a natural way of being. I took a break, got centered, did some breathing, and wrote out what I wanted to say so it could sink into the brain. Now all I had to do was speak from the heart. Finally, I was able to relax and just speak to what I know and from the heart and that is when my true authentic self was captured and my sizzle reel product had true sizzle and was REAL.

The reason I felt a need to share this story was to shed some advice to speakers or anyone trying to share their message using a video camera to promote story and wisdom. My thoughts are, just be real and when you speak into the camera, just pretend it is your child, spouse, friend or parent, whoever it is that knows you for who you are and what you stand for. Let the words flow out of your brain and through your heart… that’s when your reel will be real.

For more by Rose Tafoya, click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.

Inspirational Quotes To Get You Through The Week (September 24, 2013)
It’s the start of a new week, which means it’s time to shake off your weekend, take a deep breath and try to think positive, energizing thoughts. We can help.

Scroll down below for this week’s mood-boosting inspirational photo quotes. (And feel free to read, rinse and repeat as needed.)

What is your favorite inspirational quote? Share it with us by tweeting it to @HuffPostTeen and we might feature yours next week!

Green – The Huffington Post
Which Airlines Kill the Most Polar Bears?
Every time I see an airplane overhead, I think about polar bears. These amazing animals are being driven to the edge of extinction’s crumbling cliff by rising Arctic temperatures and melting sea ice — and every plane trip does a little bit to bring that extinction closer.

That’s because aviation is one of America’s fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, a key driver of the global climate crisis. And that crisis is pushing polar bears, along with wildlife around the planet (and human beings) toward disaster.

But airlines seem determined to block every effort to fight this problem. This week, the International Civil Aviation Organization is taking up aviation greenhouse gas pollution yet again at a meeting in Montreal. Because of industry pressure, this special United Nations agency, tasked back in 1997 with tackling carbon pollution from airplanes, has yet to agree on any significant and binding measures to protect our climate.

The good news? We can do a lot to reduce airplanes’ greenhouse emissions, judging from a ground-breaking new aviation pollution report card released recently by the highly respected International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The report found a 26 percent gap between the most and least fuel-efficient airlines serving the U.S. domestic market. Alaska Airlines was the most fuel-efficient, according to the council’s ranking of the 15 mainline domestic carriers operating in the United States. American Airlines and Allegiant were the least efficient.

To put it another way: Even after the ICCT’s aviation experts adjusted for different types of business operations and networks, the dirtiest airlines used far more fuel than the most-efficient airlines to deliver a comparable level of transport service. And the more fuel you use, the more damage you do to the climate.

That finding blows a massive hole in the airline industry’s claim to already be doing everything possible to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Airlines, of course, have long argued that fuel costs force them to operate as efficiently as possible — but the ICCT report shows that dramatic greenhouse pollution reductions are clearly feasible.

The ICCT report also sends a clear message to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has utterly failed to address the airline industry’s massive greenhouse gas pollution problem.

Fed up with federal inaction, our organization and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2011 to force the EPA to set aviation greenhouse gas pollution standards. A federal judge quickly ruled that the EPA must address climate-harming emissions from aircraft under the Clean Air Act. But two years later, the agency has still not finished the first step in the rule-making process.

That has the change. We need strong federal action to protect our climate from aviation’s growing pollution problem. The EPA has to set common-sense rules that push inefficient airlines to curb their emissions.

Keep in mind that aviation accounts for about 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, rising 3 percent to 4 percent a year.

Yet America’s woefully inefficient airline industry has had the chutzpah to pull every dirty trick possible to sabotage European and international efforts to curb airplane emissions.

We need to take every opportunity to reduce the pollution driving a climate change crisis that’s growing more acute by the year. Our planet is now on track for as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by century’s end unless we quickly reduce greenhouse pollution, according to the draft National Climate Assessment, a federal scientific report released earlier this year.

As temperatures rise, we’ll face more and more danger from chaotic extreme weather. Global warming has already increased the risk from some types of weather-related disasters, including last year’s brutal heat wave in America, according to a key scientific report released recently by scientists from around the world. And climate change will increase the risk of destructive thunderstorms and violent tornadoes across much of the United States in the decades ahead, according to a new study.

Starting tomorrow, the EPA could begin the process of regulating airline emissions under the Clean Air Act. This potent law has successfully reduced other types of harmful air pollution for four decades. Recently created Clean Air Act rules for cars and trucks nearly doubled their fuel efficiency, and the EPA needs to create efficiency standards for airplanes as soon as possible.

If we’re going to preserve a livable planet — for polar bears or people — we need to seize every opportunity to cut carbon pollution. And we need every polluter to do its part — including the airline industry.

#alkalinity #alkalinitymovement #7.2 #sevenpointtwo

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