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9 Powerful Life Lessons From Studying with a Monk

by Robert Piper

When I was 18 years old, I suffered from anxiety and stomach problems. A compassionate physician and practicing Buddhist referred me to a Taoist monk who specialized in meditation and martial arts. I ended up healing myself of anxiety and stomach issues by doing meditation, and went on a great journey of self-discovery.

Here are 9 lessons I learned while studying with a monk:

1. Keep trying until you get it right.

The most important life lesson I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.

If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.

2. The answer to your question is inside of you.

As part of the original monastery training, a monk didn’t answer direct questions from a student unless it was a well thought-out question. A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

Some forms of Zen Buddhism use a very similar style of training. An old saying (by Taoist monks) goes like this: “In making a four corner table, the teacher shows the student how to make one corner. It’s the student’s job to figure out how to make the other three.”

They did this because they were preparing a student to deal effectively with problems in the real world.

I traveled to South Korea one time, and I found it fascinating how much you have to rely on your intuition when you don’t speak the native language of a country. I remember one instance, I had trouble explaining to the cab driver where my hotel was, and he didn’t speak English. So I had to get out of the cab and ask several people until I could find someone to tell the cab driver in Korean how to get to my hotel.

In life, whenever we try new things, we have to go into new places with only a small amount of information. The real world doesn’t give us all the answers. The greatest teacher is inside of us.

3. Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing.

Prior to starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.

I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.

I remember, when I first started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, its gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.

When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.

4. When you start to do meditation you recognize the egotistical mind.

Everything in the ego’s world is the result of comparing. I compared myself to other salesmen and would blame myself because I wasn’t making as much money as them.

When I started doing meditation, I began to build separation from this egoistical mind, which is consistently making these comparisons. A lot of us try something and get rejected, so we give up. Even worse, we blame ourselves for a long time and get depressed. When I started to do meditation, I began to identify my ego and was able to build separation from it.

That’s what happens when we meditate: We separate from the part of ourselves that dwells on comparisons, and start learning to live a life that isn’t driven by our egos.

5. We must be both compassionate and resilient.

The monk wouldn’t meet with me to train unless I called him a minimum of three times. I hated this part. I used to call and call and he would never answer. But this is how life is. How many times do you have to call or email someone to get something done in the real world? It’s usually several times.

Most of us blame ourselves when we try once to do something and fail. At the time, I hated this part of the training, but now I think it was the most important life lesson.

There’s a Taoist proverb that says, “Cotton on the outside, steel on the inside.”

It reminds us to be compassionate, but not weak.

6. Patience is a virtue.

The monk always made me wait—and I dreaded this.

For example, when I got to his house to train, he’d make me wait for a minimum of a half-hour, sometimes longer. We’d go out to dinner on Friday nights and he’d show up at the restaurant an hour late.

He’d tell me to meet him at a particular restaurant at 7:00. I’d get there and find out that he wasn’t there. So I’d usually be sitting in the restaurant by myself fumbling with my phone, acting like I was texting someone, while worrying about what everyone at the restaurant was thinking about me.

Keep in mind, it’s not like I could call him; I don’t think the guy ever turned his cell phone on. Then he’d show up at about 8:15 and act like nothing happened.

His first question was always, “How’s your mother and father?” (Of course in my head I’m thinking, “What do you mean, ‘How’s my mother and father?’ I just waited here for an hour and fifteen minutes.”)

But after a few years of this, it never bothered me; and not only that, it spread to every area of my life. Because of this training, I can honestly say that I very rarely get upset about anything. I never get agitated anymore when I have to wait in a long line or when someone cuts me off on the highway.

Patience is the gift of inner calm.

7. Detach from your ego.

At first, it’s hard to sit at a restaurant by yourself. You’re constantly worrying, thinking that people probably think you’re a loser because you’re sitting by yourself. But the reality is, you will never be happy if you care about what people think you!

Prior to starting meditation, I’d get upset over just about anything. Now, nothing really bothers me. Recently, I was in the airport and there was a several hour delay on my flight. I just used that time to do meditation. Ten years ago, I would have become extremely upset. An airplane delay would have ruined my day.

When you let go of your ego needs, it’s easier to accept and even benefit from whatever comes at you.

8. In Taoism, they say, “No self, No enemy.”

It’s the enemy within that causes all of our fears, worries, and insecurities. If you come to terms with this enemy within, it will impact every area of your life. It’s the identification with the “self/ego” that causes all of life’s problems.

How many times do we not go for something because of fear? Think about all the fears that we have conjured up in our minds that stop us from being truly happy. If you can conquer the enemy within yourself, you won’t have an enemy outside yourself.

9. Happiness come from within, and also comes from outside.

I learned this from observing the Buddhist Physician I met. He used to do meditation in his office before he would interact with his patients. He was one of the happiest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met.

By creating happiness inside, he was able to increase that emotional state by spreading it to others.

We must cultivate happiness from within, and work to spread it around to everyone we interact with. The monk used say, “Everyone has a purpose or a mission in life.”

We have to find happiness within, and also find our purpose on the outside.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Piper is a meditation instructor & the creator of monkinthecity.com. He studied with a Taoist monk for 9 ½ years & traveled to Asia & Australia in search of other meditation teachers. Robert is currently writing a book on meditation to make it more accessible for stress relief, health & happiness.

 

Five Meditation Techniques To Keep You Younger Longer!

by Babs ‘O’Reilly

Since the ancient times, meditation has been used by a lot of people, especially those on the oriental side of the world. According to them, meditation is a good way of freeing the soul.

Thus, meditation is mostly associated to spiritual exercises. However, another good effect of meditation is that it can relax the mind and the body which is good way of maintaining a healthy body.

Moreover, meditation is a good technique to relieve stress. Thus, meditation is being suggested by most stress management experts as an excellent tool for use in coping with life’s daily frustrations and pressures.

However, in the recent years, there are also findings that link meditation to slowing down the process of aging. So, if you want to be healthy and young looking, meditation is one solution.

Here are the steps on how you can add meditation to your arsenal of tools against the aging process.

1. Location – It is better to choose your location first on where you can do your meditation. If you plan to do it in your house, select a place where it is quiet and with calm ambiance. Your room and the guest room can be a good candidate.

2. Schedule – It is important to set aside at least thirty minutes for your meditation. So, if you can schedule it, all the better. And, make sure to stick to your schedule.

3. Relax – Start relaxing yourself by sitting down cross legged on the floor. You can use a blanket or something that may provide comfort to you. If you can’t do that, you can start by sitting on a chair instead.

4. Free Your Mind – Close your eyes and don’t think of anything. Just allow the energy to flow into your mind and your body. Don’t put any expectations. The concept is to allow your mind to be free from anything. So, don’t fantasize or think of your problems or the solution to your worries.

5. Breath – Breath normally. Avoid controlling on how you breathe but you have to focus without controlling it. It is essential in meditation.

Once you have mastered the above mentioned tips, you will not have any difficulties in meditating. But the problem is that mastering meditation is not that easy. So, it is better to not lose hope. With practice you will be able to get it and when you do meditation will be a favorite part of your day.

If you are still having problems, then you may seek a meditation instructor to help you. Moreover, there are classes that can be enrolled in order to master the art of meditation.

So, better inquire with them because the results of meditation are really desirable. You will be very healthy and at the same time, slow down the process of aging.

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How Our Emotions Affect Our Health

We all know people who seem “stuck” in a certain emotional state. Some people seem angry all the time. Others seem sad. Still others seem fearful and some “too” happy. All of us know someone who worries all the time.

Positive and happy emotions affect our body in ways that provide us with health and healing. When we are happy, our heart rate slows, our breath is relaxed and deep and our blood pressure goes down. On the contrary, what we label as negative and painful emotions, affect our body in the exact opposite way. Our blood pressure soars; our breathing becomes rapid and shallow as we gear up for the fight.

We realize that living a life without emotions would be a non-human life indeed. We all need to feel the richness and fullness that all of our experiences bring. We have no problem feeling the love toward a helpless infant when we hold one in our arms. We love the feeling of inspirational music and a serene mountain scene or a sunrise. No one has issues with feeling deeply what we label as ‘positive’ feelings and emotions.

Traditional Chinese Medicine subscribes to the philosophy that there are seven basic emotions related to our organ function.  These are anger, joy, worry, pensiveness, sadness, fear, and shock or fright. Although the mind/body connection has been acknowledged only relatively recently in Western medicine, Eastern medicine has recognized the association between our emotions and the physical function of our organs for thousands of years.

To explain, each organ has a corresponding emotion.  When an imbalance occurs in an organ’s function, such as the liver accumulating too many toxins, a person will often experience excessive anger or irritability.  Similarly pent up or prolonged unresolved anger, can lead to an imbalance in the liver’s physical function, so it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. For this reason it is important to naturallt heal the whole person, not just the physical body when seeking to obtain a state of total well being & optimal health.

Worry and Pensiveness /Spleen

If you can think of a someone who you would typically describe as ‘carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders’, in other words they are always worrying, chances are they are suffering from weak or depleted spleen energy. Excess worry is fast becoming a normal part of our life as we live in a stress filled society.  The spleen organ is overlooked by conventional medicine, as being a vital organ, but it in fact plays an important role in the movement of blood around the body.  Weak or disturbed spleen energy can also cause digestive disturbances, such as poor digestion of food and in some cases even lead to chronic fatigue.

Too much thinking or obsessing about a topic can also deplete the spleen, causing a stagnation of its energy. A person with this condition may exhibit such symptoms as poor appetite, forgetting to eat, and bloating after eating. In time, the person may develop a pale complexion from a deficiency of spleen energy. This can eventually affect the heart, causing the person to dream about the same subjects at night.

Sadness/Lungs

Sadness or grief affects the function of the lungs.  Physically, a person experiencing prolonged episodes of sadness may commonly feel tired, suffer from shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, regular colds and flu, asthma or skin problems and will easily and or frequently cry or even experience depression.

Fear/Kidneys

The emotion of fear is related to the kidneys.  Although experiencing infrequent and brief periods of fear is a normal, it has a more dramatic effect on our health when it becomes chronic and the underlying source of the fear fails to be addressed. In times of extreme fear people involuntary urination may even be experienced. Bet wetting in young children, can also stem from underlying fear and anxiety. Long-term anxiety due to worrying about the future can deplete the kidney energy, eventually leading to chronic weakness and fatigue.

Shock/Heart & Kidneys

Shock or Fright is not just related to one organ but because of its sudden nature, making it especially debilitating to the kidneys and heart. Fright is an emotion of shock and panic due to something sudden and unexpected. Fright affects the heart in the short run and when it becomes chronic can affect the kidneys. in time of shock the body will go into an acute state of “fight or flight” resulting in the  release of excessive levels of the stress hormone, adrenaline from the adrenal glands. In times of acute shock a person will experience heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. Chronic or prolonged stress resulting from shock can have a more debilitating impact on the entire body, leading to the development of many other symptoms, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

For many years I have attracted patients into my clinic who suffer chronic and complex conditions and have struggled to find a resolution to their particular ailment, whether they have previously adopted a pharmaceutical or natural medicine approach.  Before we embark on their journey to healing their body,  I tell each of them the same thing….that failing to address the underlying emotional connection to their condition, will most likely result in the failure to completely heal their body and obtain a state of total well-being and balance. Or as I often like to see it, obtain freedom with their health and consequently their ability to live their life in the way they ultimately desire.

It is also important to understand that as emotional beings, it is normal to experience the full range of emotions, but when a particular emotion is experienced over a prolonged period or with particular intensity, it often becomes a source of imbalance within the physical body.

By combining nutrition from whole, (unprocessed), organic foods, deep sleep a healthy lifestyle, whilst tuning in & exploring any underlying emotions that may be regularly presenting themselves, will help you to achieve balance between your mind and body and optimal wellbeing. In other words, don’t forget the head when searching for answers to your physical ailments as the answers may alsoHealth is connected to emotional wellness lay with  any unresolved emotions.

Tips on how to improve your emotional health

First, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. The following are some other helpful tips.

Express your feelings in appropriate ways. If feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety are causing physical problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse. It’s OK to let your loved ones know when something is bothering you. However, keep in mind that your family and friends may not be able to help you deal with your feelings appropriately. At these times, ask someone outside the situation–such as a naturopathic doctor, a counselor or a religious advisor–for advice and support to help you improve your emotional health.

Live a balanced life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school or home that lead to negative feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be happy when you feel stressed, anxious or upset. It’s important to deal with these negative feelings, but try to focus on the positive things in your life too. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.

Develop resilience. People with resilience are able to cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned and strengthened with different strategies. These include having social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change and keeping things in perspective.

Calm your mind and body. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, are useful ways to bring your emotions into balance. Meditation is a form of guided thought. It can take many forms. For example, you may do it by exercising, stretching or breathing deeply. Ask your family doctor for advice about relaxation methods.

Take care of yourself. To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercising to relieve pent-up tension. Avoid overeating and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol just causes other problems. 

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

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