BY: RAMONA PAETZOLD
Writing your New Year's Resolutions? This is the time of year when we all jot down those ideas that we think will make us "better" in the coming year. And they're well-intended, too--lose weight, exercise more, be nicer to people, get more sleep, be easier on ourselves. The truth is that all we really need is one New Year's Resolution: BE MORE MINDFUL. It is this resolution that will actually enable us to do many other desirable things as well.
One way of building mindfulness into 2013 is to engage in a short period of mindfulness meditation each day. So, set aside approximately 5 minutes to meditate (set a timer). It can be done anywhere--sitting on the floor, lounging in a chair, or lying in bed. Take a few deep breaths to make yourself more receptive to relaxation, close your eyes, and then begin your period of mindfulness. The meditation need consist of nothing more than keeping your attention on your breath. Pay attention as your breath enters your nostrils and again as it leaves. Notice how the breath feels. There will be plenty of distractions. You'll notice your own thoughts and feelings, and bodily sensations, running through your mind. You'll hear external noises or become aware of movement around you. All of that is fine. Each time that you become distracted, be aware of the distraction, and simply return your attention to your breath. It may help to count your breaths until you get used to maintaining the focus.
Meditation is not the only way to become more mindful, however. Another is simply to slow down and relax. Avoid busyness. Give up multitasking. Realize that the way to appreciate the present is to do one thing at a time and appreciate what it feels like to do it. Don't think about what remains to be done; don't let yourself get caught up in what your future is going to be like; simply do one thing and enjoy the fact that you are doing it. Take in all the sensory pleasure you can from it, whether it's digging in the garden, washing a dish, writing a "to do" list, sending an email message to a friend, or writing a business memo. Fully engage with whatever you are doing.
Slowing down also allows you to think about what really matters to you in life. Say "yes" to those things that are life-enhancing for you; say "no" to everything else. In that way your life will be built on good, enjoyable experiences. Slowing down also allows you to be grateful for what you have. Take time every day to appreciate what's good about your life.
Mindfulness also allows for recognition that there are many more positive experiences in life than negative ones. It's just our evolutionary background that causes us to focus more on the negative--the old "fight or flight" mentality that kept our ancestors alive. We can tone down the fear and anxiety reactions that might tend to arise naturally by forcing ourselves to focus on what is positive. For example, associate with people who are more positive and optimistic. Don't dwell excessively on negative news--read for more pleasurable aspects of what is going on in the world around us. Listen to uplifting music. Be generous and kind to others; donate blood, yield the right-of-way to someone on the highway, or give money to charity. Walk around with a smile on your face. Not only does the smile make you feel more positive, it influences positive reactions in those around you.
These are just a few of the ways in which mindfulness can make 2013 a much better year. "Being mindful" is really the only resolution you need. It can lead you to all the other positive goals you hope to reach.
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the Buds to Blossoms program in Cambodia. There I and my fellow volunteers lived at a rural AIDS orphanage for two weeks providing gentle massage to over two hundred thirty children with HIV to foster their health, well-being and development. A number of the children at the AIDS orphanage were abused, raped and enslaved before arriving there. The children's immune systems are severely compromised, and some have infections which cause painful, disfiguring sores to erupt on their skin. Only a narrow range of treatments for HIV are available in Cambodia, and the children are in danger of developing full-blown AIDS at any time. Newly-orphaned children come into the care of the orphanage on a regular basis and are sometimes emaciated and in the last stage of AIDS. Our volunteer group promoted the children's health and their chances of surviving HIV infection by providing them with the proven immune system-strengthening effect of gentle massage. The massages we gave also helped relieve the children's pain and anxiety and helped meet their emotional needs for nurturing contact with caring adults.
The experience in the orphanage itself was challenging and rewarding. Despite battling a bout of severe food poisoning, I still managed to be able to connect with these shining bright children. They were all so full of energy all the time and I almost forgot that they had any medical conditions. I was blown away by the joy and love they offered so freely. When we weren't massaging the children, we often played with them on the playground. A couple nights we even had dance parties. Those kids had some moves! I went through many emotional peaks and valleys as I learned about the children's histories. I couldn't reconcile the joy each child exuded despite the abuse that most of them went through. It broke my heart. I truly connected with each heart and was truly devastated to leave. Saying goodbye was rough. Through themI have experienced the depths of the resiliency and love of the human spirit.
However as I visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I saw the worst of humanity in the depths of violence, poverty, and child exploitation. I could not walk a few steps without being visited by a bruised, beaten, and emaciated child begging for money or even worse a girl of no more that 12-14 years old being solicited by middle-age men. My skin would crawl and my stomach was in knots every single time I saw such lack of value for these precious souls.
I am so thankful for the life I am blessed with. With the little resources that I have, I will make a difference...I can and I will. Watch me! Better yet, join me.
The Heart Connection journey started with a sweat lodge and another chapter begins with a sweat lodge at the end of June. My wonderful soul sisters sent me off in April and Esalen Institute was my first stop on my journey to learn more about creating a retreat center and intentional community. It was a magical time and I can't wait to incorporate all that I experienced into Dragonfly Healing Center. After my second sweat lodge at Esalen, I visted our leader at his home. I was completely floored and honored when he invited me to join the Esselen tribe. I'm looking forward to becoming a part of this family. I truly see Esalen Institute as a source of inspiration for us here at Dragonfly Healing Center.
The next stop on my journey is Cambodia. I will be as a participant in the Buds to Blossoms Pediatric Massage Volunteer Program which will take me to Cambodia. There I and my fellow volunteers will live at a rural AIDS orphanage for two weeks providing gentle massage to over two hundred children with HIV to foster their health, well-being and development. A number of the children we will care for at the AIDS orphanage were abused, raped and enslaved before arriving there. The children's immune systems are severely compromised, and some have infections which cause painful, disfiguring sores to erupt on their skin. Only a narrow range of treatments for HIV are available in Cambodia, and the children are in danger of developing full-blown AIDS at any time. Newly-orphaned children come into the care of the orphanage on a regular basis and are sometimes emaciated and in the last stage of AIDS. Our volunteer group will promote the children's health and their chances of surviving HIV infection by providing them with the proven immune system-strengthening effect of gentle massage. The massages we give will also help relieve the children's pain and anxiety and meet their emotional needs for nurturing contact with caring adults.
Sitting with Sharon at IMS
“Faith is not a singular state that we either have or don’t have, but it is something that we do. Faith is the willingness to take the next step, to see the unknown as an adventure, to launch a journey. For faith to be alive and to deepen we need to use our power to inquire, to wonder, to explore or experience to see what is true for ourselves. This requires us to approach life with an inquisitive, eager, self-confident capacity to probe and question. It requires us to examine where we place our faith, and why, to see if it makes us more aware and loving people. To develop a verified faith we need to open to the messiness, the discordance, the ambivalence, and above all, the vital life force of questioning. If we don’t, our faith can wither. If we don’t, our faith will always remain in the hands of someone else, as something we borrow or abjure, but not as something we can claim as our own.”
--Faith by Sharon Salzberg
Dragonfly Healing Center supported the Association of Black Psychologists Student Circle Regional Conference held at San Francisco State University. The national association is the leader and international resource for addressing the psychological needs of African people throughout the world. In good company, SF State boasts being the only provider of a master’s level program in Ethnic Studies in the entire nation. Melissa Green facilitated meditation and appreciated the honor of interacting with all present during the empowering conference.
Dragonfly Healing Center donated a free gift certificate to participate in our upcoming May workshop. Welcome to further inspiration!
Esalen Institute is graced with the presence of Lucy Keoni as a work scholar in their world-renowned retreat center. Esalen is a leading center for exploring and realizing human potential through experience, education, and research. Esalen works towards the realization of a more humane and all-embracing world, seeking answers to questions unlikely to be explored by traditional universities or religions. Lucy’s purpose in participating as a work scholar is to study and benchmark the inner workings of Esalen which is serving as an incubator for the birth of the larger purpose of Dragonfly Healing Center. Esalen is a major catalyst in the transformation of humankind, to help people integrate body, heart, mind, spirit, and community in a nurturing relationship with the environment. Our vision at Dragonfly Healing Center is to offer a sanctuary for people to get away and rejuvenate with serene grounds and trails of our future space, our daily workshops, evening workshops, daylong and weekend retreats as well as our longer retreats. Our café will host communal meals with cleansing organic gourmet gluten-free, vegetarian meals and juices. We envision a thriving, supportive spiritual community of guest and resident healers aligned with our mission. We will have an East meets West integrative health center. We will have an educational institute for professional and leadership training as well as classes to nurture our youth. We are committed to sustainable living through permaculture. We are committed to creating a shift in the global consciousness through the healing of individuals and through social change projects worldwide.
Dragonfly Healing Center is well on its way to realizing this vision. If you are interested in supporting us or being part of this vision, please email email@example.com.
Our send off for Lucy was truly magical! On April 14th, a close group of sister-goddesses joined hearts in a sweat lodge ceremony to offer up our prayers, give gratitude, and hold space for Lucy's journey to Esalen and the Heart Connection Project. Here is a special note from Lucy:
We arose out of the flames, leaving behind the ashes of the past that no longer serve us, emerging more radiant than ever.
I am incredibly grateful to Mother Earth, lodge leader- Verlinda, singers, firekeepers, and my soul sisters ( those who were present in body and those who came in spirit...for those who could not be there lifted you up in prayer). Thank you Universe for the opportunity to take part in the Inipi sweat lodge of the Lakota Sioux people today.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin....All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer....
To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.
To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.
To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.
To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.
To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.
To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages, I thank you.
To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.
Thank you for this Life.
We'll be sharing stories and photos on our Facebook page and blog, so stay tuned!
Melissa: How I lift my spirit without fail is by taking a walk or hike in nature. I feel so connected to all of life, plus I get a great workout at the same time. When I was on the magical island of Maui, I took advantage of many opportunities to connect with nature and soothe my soul. Maui has a plethora of natural sites in which to deeply connect with life energy and the whole island is covered with the spirit of Aloha.
On my most recent trip, I found incredible solace at the Ali’i Kula Lavendar farm. The lavender farm is upcountry at 4,000 feet elevation on the slopes of Haleakala crater. There are trails meandering through the lavender fields with identification of the various types of lavender. After strolling through the delicious fields I stopped to meditate in the Native Hawaiian Garden. My afternoon was scrumptious and complete with a visit to the shop to take home some of the lavender bliss I experienced.
I will be sharing the aromatic scent of this lavender essential oil at Dragonfly’s upcoming workshop, Uplift the Spirit! Aromatherapy using lavender has a regulating effect on the nervous system. Lavender is widely known for its calming, soothing and stress relieving qualities and has been used by many cultures for thousands of years. On May 19th, come live the balance and harmony that lavender essential oil brings!
Essential Oils are the fragrant essence of a plant or flower. They are in liquid form and highly concentrated and create the foundation for aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the healing practice of using essential oils from nature such as flowers and many parts of plants like stems, bark, root, and leaves. When the aroma of these oils is inhaled, the benefits include stimulation of brain functioning, pain relief and enhancing mood; though each essential oil has its own specific healing properties. Aromatherapy is a form of herbal healing practices when it is used for its therapeutic properties. Because an herb is a plant or plant part that offers its flavor, scent and therapeutic properties, aromatherapy gives the gift of natural, effective, herbal healing to soothe the soul and lift the spirit. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh……..
Lucy: Last February, I set out on a healing journey to Maui. The second I stepped onto the land and breathed in the air, I could feel the healing power of the island. Maui is a well-known power spot for healing and renewal, much like Sedona, Stonehenge, and the Pyramids.
People who are “burnt out” by stressful lives come from all over the world to take an “energy bath” in ancient balancing energies. As the weight of the world lifts, the rhythm of the sea and the vibrancy of Haleakala volcano, the “house of the sun” can be felt as a physical and Spiritual presence beneath your feet, through the exquisite flowers and in the refreshing tropical Pacific air.
There is legendary healing power here, power recognized by the Hawaiian shamans, the Kahunas, who still exist today in a sacred lineage. One very special reason for this is attributed to the "mana" (dynamic healing powers) contained in the sacred bones of ancestral Hawaiian kings buried long ago on the "valley isle".
Hawaii is the birthplace of Reiki in the western world. Hundreds of thousands of subtle energy workers trace their lineage to a Japanese American Reiki Master named Hawayo Takata who was born at the turn of this century in the Hawaii.
Hawayo Takata journeyed to Japan in the 1930s, received Reiki healing treatments for several serious ailments. We are told she received a complete healing of all of her conditions. Then, she learned from Reiki Master Chujiro Hayashi the recovered secrets of this 19th century Japanese laying on of hands Spiritual energy healing technique. Until Mrs. Takata brought Reiki and her teacher, Dr. Hayashi, to the Hawaiian islands Reiki was virtually unknown outside of Japan.
Reiki is a self empowering energy healing technique which is quickly and easily learned and can be used every day to achieve balance and relieve stress. I am excited to share the healing Reiki energies during our next workshop in May. I also ecstatic about offering Moving Into the Light, our signature women’s retreat in 2013! It will be a blissful week in paradise.
Start your week off right with a meditation from the beloved Thich Nhat Hanh from his book, "The Miracle of Mindfulness"
Repeat this meditation whenever you can to bring stillness to your mind.
Meditation – Breathing to quiet the mind and body to realize joy
“Sit in the full or half lotus.
Half-smile. Follow your breath.
When your mind and body are quiet, continue to inhale and exhale very lightly, mindful that, ‘I am breathing in and making the breath-body light and peaceful. I am exhaling making the breath-body light and peaceful.’
Continue for three breaths, giving rise to the thought in mindfulness, ‘I am breathing in and making my entire body light and peaceful and joyous.’ Continue for three breaths and in mindfulness give rise to the thought, ‘I am breathing in while my body and mind
are peace and joy. I am breathing out while my body and mind are peace and joy.’
Maintain this thought in mindfulness from 5 to 30 minutes, or for an hour, according to your ability and to the time available to you.
The beginning and end of the practice should be relaxed and gentle. When you want to stop, gently massage your eyes and face with your two hands and then massage the muscles in your legs before returning to a normal sitting position. Wait a moment before standing up.”
Connecting with nature through hiking can be a sure way of lifting the spirits and decreasing stress in addition to physically exercising the body. Since we are interconnected with Mother Earth, our soul will be replenished when we engage in outdoor activity that takes us to the heart of this union. On this past winter solstice, I had a magical hike to an Ohlone Native American site in the Santa Cruz mountains called Turtle Rock. The huge boulder perched high on the mountain ridge looks like a gigantic turtle frozen and preserved. There is a sacred creation story that has been passed down that attests to the power of this location which gifts wonderous views. One of the most magnificent you will find!
Legend goes…the turtle’s shell contained all the souls of all beings before any animals or humans existed on the Earth. Turtle came upon land and made its home at this glorious spot. On the winter solstice during sunset, the rays of the sun shone straight into turtle’s back and the turtle’s shell split open to release all the captive souls. The Ohlone gathered at Turtle Rock every winter solstice to hold special rituals and celebrate at this sacred rock.
Hands on healing, meditation and prayer attract the highest form of energy and consciousness. Because the Ohlone used this site as a place of healing and ceremony, the land has become a nurturing energy vortex. These are formed by human interaction with Mother Nature and her energy field. An energy vortex is made of spiraling pools of energy and this natural vortex attracts the flow of prana (breath, energy, life force) to its center. You are bathed in the life forces of Mother Earth!
I was truly soothed as I looked out at the majesty of the mountain ranges and saw clear out to the ocean. A group of us gathered and soaked up the healing energy as the sun began to set and cast its glow on Turtle Rock. As legend has it, the sun shone directly through the meeting of two smaller rocks and on into the crack down the middle of Turtle Rock. A sense of release, freedom and aliveness was ever so present. On any given day, I am exalted by the energy of this sacred location as I hike along the ridge trail to its glory.
Experience Turtle Rock for yourself during Dragonfly Healing Center’s March half-day workshop! Exhilarate the soul! Raise consciousness! Honor the reverence for nature as lived by the Ohlone tribes that occupied this spiritual land. Heal and energize body, mind, heart and soul!
"I have invited Melissa to lead holistic hikes with the college students to help them connect spiritually. The students love the hikes and really enjoy Melissa's approach because they feel comfortable, have fun and learn different ways to connect with each other. Students especially enjoyed a walk to the local Rose Garden in which Melissa helped students be mindful of how they were walking, and what they were feeling in their bodies. She then led the students in some light yoga once we arrived to the Rose Garden. Even students who typically do not participate in spiritual or mindful activities had a really great time."
Resident Minister at Santa Clara University
“Like” our Facebook page OR comment on our blog and receive a complimentary holistic hike!
Form your own group or join an organized hike.
Stress can have a detrimental effect on the body. It is increasingly becoming illuminated as being the silent killer. Stress is a factor that is common to the human condition, and how we manage stress is crucial to health, wellness and our very survival. However, not all stress is harmful, as certain stressors may actually spur helpful reactions such as personal growth and achievement through challenge. Though, most stressors have been correlated to negative impacts on health and general well-being. Prominent conditions linked to stress are hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, neck aches, low-back pains, and skin problems. These have been classified as the “diseases of civilization”. In addition to physical declines, stress influences mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person. With stress having a multifaceted effect on the individual as a whole, the impacts of stress become far-reaching in areas of society, community, workplace, and relationships.
Mindfulness meditation is a vital component of wellness that decreases the harms of stress. Mindfulness may change your life…
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves formal and informal practices. In formal practice, you take some amount of time everyday to stop and meditate. With informal practice, you allow the mindfulness practice to flow into all aspects of your everyday life.
Through research and studies of the effects of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), a multitude of benefits have been found. Mindfulness has been shown to transform emotions and lift the spirit; help decrease and alleviate several physical health symptoms and cope with pain in the body; increase brain functioning and cognitive attention abilities; and cultivate inner resources and resiliency that bring peace, joy, life balance and vitality.
Mindfulness is simply awareness, which in actuality is not so simple. Mindfulness requires that you intentionally pay attention to the present moment with an attitude of non-judgment. Mindfulness meditation is an embodied practice that cultivates a healthy relationship with the self. This personal and friendly relationship with yourself extends to create healthier relationships with others. Therefore, your personal practice of mindfulness may also change the communities in which you engage as well as expand and reach to affect the entire world.
Knowing yourself is powerful! And it is also a major challenge – quite possibly the most difficult work that you can implement. But what work is more important? Mindfulness cultivates the deep listening that is required to truly come to know your own self in body, mind, heart and spirit and how these are displayed in the world.
Women of the World – March Event:
“Mindfulness as Self Exploration and Investigation: Realizing the Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit Connection to How You Show Up in the World”
Saturday, March 10th from 6pm-9pm in San Francisco
Organizer: Lucy Keoni
Speaker: Melissa Green, MS, MA
SEE DETAILS AND RSVP HERE