18 November 2011
In Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about gratitude. What does it mean to look at the world and one’s place within it with a gratefulness to be a part of the whole? I realize that sometimes, I let other things take center stage, and my sense of thanks can fall on the back burner.

Take waking up each morning. In Judaism, one is supposed to recite the words: Modeh anee lifanecha melech chai vikayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b'chemla, raba emunatecha. I offer thanks to You, living and eternal king, for You have restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

The great Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offers this morning meditation: Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” 

As you know, I consider myself a Jewish Buddhist, or a JuBu. So which prayer do I say? Either? Both? Okay, I’m embarrassed to admit, but I want to be honest. Mostly, when I wake up in the morning, I recite what I guess you could call my “K’vetch Prayer, and I mostly recite it out loud and to my husband. The first words I speak in the morning go something like this: 

“Oy, Steve, the arthritis in my neck is killing me.” This is sometimes followed by the heartfelt (or rather headfelt) words of: “My head is killing me, can you get bring me Excedrin?” 

My husband wouldn’t say that he is a spiritual seeker or that he is following a spiritual path, yet he embodies it everyday by his actions. He wakes up happy and ready to start the day. He doesn’t complain about aches and pains and he patiently listens to me when I do. I think he may be doing double duty as both husband and guru.

I am reminded of the wonderful work taking place in the world of neuroscience today, and its connection to mindfulness. Our brains are actually wired to focus on the negative rather than the positive. This was an adaptive process to ensure our survival. I mean think about it.  When we were hunters and gatherers, it didn’t matter if you had some really great moments in your day. If a tiger was chasing after you, what you are going to focus on is that tiger, rather than a pleasant morning of picking berries or the nice smile your children gave you.  Over the fire that night, you’re talking about the tiger and how you managed to hide and stay safe and you’ll focus on that because if you were to ignore the very real risk of the tiger, you might be his lunch the next day.

Well, most of us aren’t worrying about getting eaten by tigers, but we are worried about other things, and our brains our wired to focus our attention there. We worry about our kids’ college applications, the economy, problems in our relationships (and yes, authors worry about book sales). We worry about big medical problems (a father’s Alzheimer’s) and little ones, like a 12-year sore neck that I manage to complain about every morning. We need to challenge our brain to make new neuron pathways, to understand that our brain is going to magnify our worries and downplay all of the great things in our lives.

This Thanksgiving season, I am going to make a conscious effort to hold front and center the wonderful things in my life, and to wake up in the morning and offer my thanks. One of the things I learned years ago on a 7-day silent retreat was that not everything you think needs to be shared out loud. Not everything needs to be fed more energy.

Whether I end up saying a Jewish prayer in the morning, or a Buddhist blessing, or, typical of me some combination of the two, I’m going to speak it from my heart and maybe my arthritic neck will even learn a thing or two about gratitude. After all, my neck is still flexible and allows me to look up, down, right, left and take in the beauty of this world. 

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving…

Namaste B’Shalom,

Ellen 


Posted by emfrankel at 10:35 AM | Link
 
16 November 2011
Got to Revolution

Yesterday I was driving in my car listening to the radio when the disc jockey said that in recognition of Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements across the country and around the world, he was playing VOLUNTEERS by Jefferson Airplane. Now, when I was in college, this was one of my favorite songs. Do you remember it? Here are the lyrics:  

Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Hey I'm dancing down the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Ain't it amazing all the people I meet
Got a revolution Got to revolution
One generation got old
One generation got sold
This generation got no destination to hold
Pick up the cry
Hey now it's time for you and me
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Come on now we're marching to the sea
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of America

So I turned the radio up really loudly, and rolled down my windows as I sang along on top of my lungs. All of a sudden, I was part of the movement, part of the 99% who is saying enough is enough, that corporate greed has got to end, that our voices have to be heard. I started wondering why I haven’t ventured downtown to lend my support to Occupy Boston. The more I sang along with the song, the more the activist within me was being reignited. 

There was only one problem. As I am belting along with Jefferson Airplane, my hair whipping in the wind as I’m thinking about the inequities that exist between the 1% and the 99%, I had to acknowledge to myself where it was I was driving to. 

My manicure.

Okay, and yes, a pedicure too.

I can get complacent. We all can.  But while that song was playing, while I was singing out those words and really meaning it, something within me was rekindled. Maybe, as a middle-aged suburban woman I don’t look like some of the activists I see speaking out on the evening news. But we come in different ages, and styles. I think hearing that song was a little bit of a wake-up call for me. Fine, go ahead and have your manicure. But that doesn’t mean that once your polish is dry, you can’t pick up sign and march along side and in solidarity with others.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not always black and white. Maybe I won’t pitch a tent in the city and Occupy Boston 24/7. But I can still support the movement in various ways.  Plus, I think it’s my karma that the polish I’m wearing is a darkish brown called: Carry On….and yes, I think I will.

Namaste B’Shalom,

Ellen


Posted by emfrankel at 11:54 AM | Link
 
01 November 2011
7 Ways to Stop Dieting from the East

 

A tell-tale sign that the holidays are just around the corner is the number of weight loss television commercials telling viewers how they can lose pounds and have the ideal body in time for the holiday festivities if they purchase their products. If you have your magnifier reading glasses on, you can read the disclaimer that the results shown on the advertisement are atypical. Of course they are. Despite the weight loss industry taking in 60 billion dollars a year, statistics reveal that 95%-98% of dieters regain the weight in the long run, often with added pounds. 

This holiday season, while we enjoy the lights that shine from the city streets to the country lanes, we can also turn into our own inner light and, in the process, let go of the dieting culture and move into an internal and intuitive/attuned basis for eating allowing us to make peace with food, our bodies and ourselves. 

The teachings of the East can instruct us in the West on how to move from the stress of the diet mentality to the calmness of the natural stream within us all. Here are 7 tips for cultivating this priceless gift: 

*Trust yourself and your inner wisdom. That means trusting your own internal cues to guide you when you’re hungry, what you’re hungry for and when you’ve had enough instead of turning to external dictates telling you when and what to eat. 

*Everything is cyclical. All that arises passes away and will arise again. In the realm of eating, this means that getting hungry and satisfying that hunger is a natural process. Denying what arises (hunger) encourages disconnection, rather than connection, and discourages being with what is - being fully in just this moment.  

*Everything changes. How many of us have said that we want to look like we did in high school, or at our wedding or after a 2-month bout of Mono? Things change, and that means our bodies change, too.  Rather than fighting that, we can move toward acceptance by take good care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are a culture obsessed with denying aging and death, and forever searching for the fountain of youth. A better approach is to embrace the wisdom and gifts of each age. 

*The middle way: Seek balance in life. In the realm of food, this means neither living a life of deprivation nor one of over overindulgence.  

*Compassion: for others and for oneself. In the realm of food and body, this means acting in a loving, compassionate and non-judgmental way in how we feed ourselves and talk about our bodies. It means celebrating body diversity, and letting go of a culturally mandated notion of perfection and, instead, sharing the beauty of imperfection. 

*Gratitude: for being in this world. Here, we can move from anger and shame (what we feel after breaking a diet, or when we feel badly about our bodies) to a place of gratitude and peace for being a part of the great whole and for having a human body in this lifetime. 

*Mindfulness. Practice moving through the world with awareness. This includes eating with awareness, without guilt, without counting calories or fat grams.  Instead, we can live with an appreciation for the food that gives the body energy, nourishment and enjoyment.  

As the holiday season draws near, the biggest gift we can offer ourselves and our loved ones is our full presence. And we can do that by moving into a place of self-love and attunement, counting our blessings rather than our calories. 

Namaste B'Shalom,

Ellen 

  

 

 


Posted by emfrankel at 8:46 AM | Link
 
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