Archive for August, 2009

Kabbalah The Complete Idiots Guide

It is no secret that Madonna is a devotee of Kabbalah.  And she isn’t the only celebrity follower of this spiritual organization.  Here’s our guide to Kabbalah and why so many of the rich and famous are queuing up to join.

Madonna and Kabbalah

As Madonna was the first to bring Kabbalah to our attention, it seems only fair to start with her involvement.  She studies regularly with a personal rabbi from the Kabbalah Centre and no longer performs concerts on a Friday night because it is the onset of Shabbat.  Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and is a day of rest in Judaism. It lasts from when the sun goes down on Friday until Saturday night.

The Red String

Madonna also wears the now famous red string.  This is worn around the left wrist for protection and is said to bring divine protection from evil spirits as well as bringing good fortune.  Truly authentic ‘red string’ has been previously wound around the tomb of Rachel (a Biblical Hebrew matriarch) near Bethlehem.

The Malawi Connection

Madonna has worked with the Kabbalah Centre on a project called ‘Raising Malawi’ to bring aid relief to the African Nation.  Madonna has now adopted two children from Malawi.

Other Celebrities who have been associated with the Kabbalah Centre

  • Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore
  • Britney Spears
  • David and Victoria Beckham
  • Donna Karan
  • Jerry Hall
  • Lindsay Lohan
  • Lucy Liu
  • Mick Jagger
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Nicole Richie
  • Paris Hilton
  • Roseanne
  • Rosie O’Donnell
  • Sandra Bernhard
  • Zac Efron

So what is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is far from some new celebrity ‘fad’.  Kabbalistic teachings were passed down orally through Jewish families and teachers and were said to have been given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai around 1300 BC / BCE.  Some believe that Kabbalah started with Adam.

The Kabbalah Centre (as followed by Madonna) in the United States was founded in 1922 by Rav Yehuda Ashlag, one of the greatest Kabbalists of the 20th century. Before he died, he passed leadership to Rav Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein, who in turn passed it to Philip (Rav) Berg (born Feivel Gruberger). Berg and his wife, Karen, spent several years in Israel and then opened a Kabbalah Centre in New York. The current headquarters of the Kabbalah Centre are in Los Angeles. Karen and their sons Yehuda and Michael are the Directors and Spiritual Leaders of the organization. There are now over fifty branches all over the world, with other major ones in London and Toronto.

The Kabbalah Centre uses Jewish and non-Jewish teachers to instruct anyone in the principles of Jewish Mysticism, whatever their religion, race, marital status or gender. It has faced some opposition from Jewish organizations who say it is essentially non-Jewish and see its’ popularity with Jews as a problem. This is because some forms of Judaism don’t allow Jews to take part in any form of religious ritual with non-Jews.

What do they teach?

Kabbalists believe that all spiritual and religious beliefs are branches of one universal wisdom.  As such, the Kabbalah Centre doesn’t offer itself as another religion – but a supplement to all others.

Followers of Kabbalah don’t take the Bible literally but believe it to be a code which can be understood through a knowledge of the Zohar.  The Zohar is a commentary of the five books of Moses, called the Torah.  The Torah is a group of books which were written in medieval Aramaic and contain mystical discussions on (among many other topics) the origin of the universe, souls, good, evil, and the nature of God.

Some Kabbalistic beliefs

The Light – God is beyond our understanding and so it is more important to nuture a relationship with the essence of God.  In the beginning, light is all there was.  But light wanted to share and in order to do so, created man to appreciate it.

99% – Our five senses allow us to access only 1% of reality.  The remaining 99% is inacessable unless one learns wisdom from Kabbalah.  Nothing that happens in the 1% is random.  It is a result of the other 99%, which is total happiness and understanding of truth.

Restriction – When anything happens, we respond in an emotional way.  If we wish to remove the negative impact of our ego, we must control our emotional response to negative situations.  In other words, it’s not what happens to us, but how we react to it that is important.

Klippot – The concept is that we all have a direct connection to God / Light.  However, this is blockedby Klippot, which prevents the spiritual energy from entering our physical body.  To remove the block, it is necessary to meditate and study Kabbalah.  If we do not observe restriction and the 99%, then we add to the Klippot / block and prevent ourselves from becoming closer to the Divine.

Astrology – Rav Berg is an Astrologer and Kabbalists believe that everything is affected by cosmic forces.  The Centre says that Rabbis suppressed the Kabbalah almost 2,000 years ago and so astrology was dropped from Judaism.  This is not strictly true as medieval Jewish scholars are known to have studied astrology.

If you are interested and would like to know more…

…visit the Kabbalah Centre website, for information, books and classes or you can also find a variety of helpful books about  Kabbalah on Amazon.

Soul of Healing AffirmationsHow often have you heard people say “think positive”?  Affirmations may sound a bit way out but they are simply about thinking positive.  If it’s that easy, why aren’t we all doing it?

How we sabotage ourselves

We are masters at putting ourselves down.  We have a continuous dialogue in our heads or out loud that may sound like the following…“I’m such an idiot”, “I’d buy those jeans if only I was thin…”, “My skin looks awful”, “Everyone understood that except me but I’m too scared to ask because I’m so stupid…”  the list is endless but you get the gist.

This constant bombardment of negativity goes on hour by hour, day by day and so on.  Now, imagine a scene in a Supermarket where you see a Mother berating her child in a similar fashion.  Constant criticism.  Wouldn’t you think she was an awful parent?  You bet!  But that’s what we do to ourselves all the time and then we wonder why we feel stuck in a rut and unable to loose weight, go for that promotion, ask that cute girl out on a date, finally attempt to fix that leaking faucet…why should we bother?  We’re going to fail or mess up somehow so it becomes easier not to try.

We are creating our own reality

Let’s go back to that Mom in the Supermarket.  If she tells her child often enough that he / she is useless, worthless, hopeless, then that is what the child will become.  Let’s reverse that.  Now, she’s praising her child, paying attention to what he / she needs, listening, validating and appreciating.  Her child will grow up to be confident, comfortable in their own skin and ready to take on challenges and achieve their potential.  Isn’t it time you did the same for yourself?

Where do I start?

First of all, get used to the idea of using affirmations.  When you are so accustomed to subconsciously hearing a negative internal (or external) dialogue, it can make you feel very self conscious to even think about changing.  Why?  Because you are finally getting ready to take charge and take responsibility for your own self perception which will lead to a change in how others see you.  That can be scary.  Maybe you have become so used to how you are now that you are not altogether ready to make changes and push yourself forward.  You might be thinking that this sounds crazy.  Surely everyone wants to change for the better.  You’d think…but let’s examine what that means.

Are you really ready to change?

Let’s say that you get ready, start using affirmations and gradually see a change.  Because that is what is going to happen.  You may have thought that you want to lose weight for a long time – but what are the consequences of that?  You will undoubtedly attract more attention from others – are you able to deal with that?  Is your spouse or significant other able to deal with it?  If you finally get up enough confidence to go back to school, or get that haircut you’ve been dreaming of, or even just start wearing more make-up…all of these things will create further changes around you.

You probably think that we sound like real kill-joys.  You haven’t even started yet and already we are throwing obstacles into your path.  Actually, what we are doing is making you aware that you will be leaving a ‘comfort zone’ that you have been safely cocooned in – maybe for a long time.  You need to be absolutely sure in your own mind that you want these positive changes.  If you don’t do this at the beginning, any affirmations will become mere words and you will soon be self-sabotaging again to return to that safe, warm place…and that would be such a shame.

Ready and willing

Great!  Now, you may or may not have been aware of your own subtle (or not so subtle!) put downs.  The first step is to become very aware of them.  They are not helping you and are a barrier to you progress, so they are the first things to go.  If you don’t do this, you can say as many affirmations as you like but a little voice in the back of your mind will be replying ‘Yeah, right!’ and you’ll have an internal argument going on which will drive you nuts and have you racing backwards.

So, listen to what you say to yourself.  Pay attention.  Every time you catch yourself saying or thinking something negative about yourself – stop, and correct it.  When you look in the mirror first thing in the morning and think ‘Yuk!’ stop right there.  Take a good look at yourself, smile and say ‘good morning!’.  If your internal voice criticizes your weight, stop and think, or say – ‘We’re not going to do that anymore’.

It sounds too simplistic…

It might do – but it works.    The next thing to do is to find out which kind of affirmations will suit you best.  People fall into natural groups – some respond best to visual stimuli, others to sound.  You will know already which one you are in.  Think back to a situation such as a wedding you went to.  What do you remember?  How beautiful the bride looked?  How amazing the reception room looked?  You would be a visual person.  If your main memories are of the music and the words of the ceremony, you’re more likely to be primarily auditory and therefore will respond best to sound.

The Mirror – An exercise for ‘visual’ people

Choose a time when you are alone in the house and not likely to be disturbed for a while.  Find a full length mirror and stand in front of it.  This works best if you are in your underwear or not in any clothes at all – so make sure you are up to this and be brave!  Start looking at yourself in the mirror and work your way from top to bottom or vice versa, thinking or saying as many good things about your body as you can.  You may find that you feel very embarrassed and don’t even want to look to begin with but this is normal.  Just try and stick with it.  Before you start, you may think that you hate everything about your body but keep it simple.  Look at your feet.  They carry you around all day.  That makes them good feet.  Look at your hands.  Think of the hundreds of ways they help you every day.  Good hands.

The more you do this, the easier it will become and the more you will like yourself and the nagging voice in your head will start to change.

How to make this an ‘auditory’ exercise

Simply repeat the exercise above but make sure that you speak your thoughts out loud.  This will help to impress them upon your brain and emphasise the message.

How else can I do this?

If you’re not happy with this idea, try writing things down.  Start with a simple list of ten things that you would like to change about yourself.  Make yourself read it out loud to help to re-inforce it.  Put a date on the page and then put it somewhere safe and set a reminder in your diary, on your cell phone or on your pc to go and check that paper in a weeks time.  During that week, you carry on with ‘catching’ your negative thoughts and turning them right around to positives.  When you check your page a week later, you might be surprised at how you feel when you read what you wrote…

Need more help?

Go to Amazon.com and put Affirmations into the search box.  You will be shown hundreds of books and audio cd’s to choose from.  Stick with it and watch your life change.  You’ll wish you’d done this years ago.  Don’t waste any more time or energy on allowing negativity to hold you back.  You deserve better!  Good luck!

Eckhart Tolle and the Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle The Power of NowIf you are an Oprah fan then you will know who Eckhart Tolle is and you will be aware of his bookThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.  If you’ve never heard of him, or his New York Times bestselling book, then read on…

Who is Eckhart Tolle?

Eckhart Tolle (pronounced Toe-Lay) was born in Germany in 1948.  He lived with his father in Spain from the age of 13 until he was 19.  Between the ages of 13 and 22, he received no education as he refused to go to school, finding it a “hostile environment”.  However, he studied literature, languages and philosophy on his own and graduated from the University of London.  He then commenced a Doctorate at Cambridge University but didn’t finish this.  He suffered from suicidal depression until the age of 29 when he experienced an “inner transformation”.  He claims that the first books that he read after his awakening, which deepened his understanding, were the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita (an important Sanskrit Hindu scripture, revered as a sacred scripture of Hinduism), the Tao Te Ching (an ancient book central to Chinese religion) and teachings of The Buddha.

He has lived in Vancouver, Canada, since 1996.

The Power of Now

This was the first of Tolle’s four books.  It was a number one New York Times best seller and has been translated into over 33 languages.  It was slow to catch on but when Oprah Winfrey announced on her show that it was one of her favorite books, it shot to the top of the bestsellers list.  Many have called it one of the most important spiritual books of our time.

The main message of the book is that to find the path to happiness and enlightenment, we must learn how to live in the here and now.  The idea is not a new one but Tolle is great at explaining complicated concepts in easy-to-understand language.  The book teaches you how to stop thoughts and emotions acting as a block to finding peace – and therefore happiness.

There is a lot of information to take on board, including the source of chi (according to Chinese culture, this is an active principle forming part of any living thing and frequently translated as “energy flow”), how to enjoy enlightened relationships, how to use the mind in a creative way and how to understand the cycle of life.  If that sounds like quite a challenge, Tolle has included ‘break times’.  When you reach one of these, he advises that you put the book down and think about what you have just read, to help it sink in.

Tolle’s Other Influences

Anton Schneiderfranken – (who became known as Bô Yin Râ following his enlightenment).  An author on spiritual matters and painter who claimed to have painted Christ as he actually saw him.

Meister Eckhart – Eckhart von Hochheim, (c. 1260–c. 1328), a German theologian, philosopher and mystic.

Advaita Vedanta – a sub-school of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy.

Sufism – the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.

The poetry of Rumi – a 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist (a professional who deals with the law), theologian, and mystic

Zen Buddhism – Zen Buddhists believe that all creatures that can feel have ‘Buddah-nature’ – the inherent wisdom of universal nature.  The aim of Zen is to find Buddha-nature within each person by means of meditation and the consideration of what has happened during the day.  Practitioners believe that this gives fresh insights on and perceptions on existence, which will ultimately bring enlightenment.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986), a renowned Indian writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects.

Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950), an Indian sage who taught by remaining largely silent.  This stilled the minds of his followers who were attuned to it.

Barry Long (1926 –2003) an Australian spiritual teacher and writer.  An advocate of stilling the mind and controversial because of his views on relationships and tantric sex.

Whether you already like Eckhart Tolle from seeing him on Oprah or dislike him, his books are required reading for anyone with an interest in spirituality.  With influences like the list above, they have to be at the very least, fascinating!

Other books by Eckhart Tolle

  • Practising the Power of Now – a collection of extracts from the original book ‘The Power of Now’.

  • A New Earth – this was chosen by Oprah for her book club and had Tolle as a guest on her Soul Series.  The book topped the New York Times bestseller list in March 2008.
  • Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now – emphasising the art and importance of attaining inner stillness.



Ten Top Tips for Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety is such a little word.  It doesn’t have the clout of the words ‘depression’ or ‘phobia’ – but it can be just as debilitating as both of those things and can make your life a complete misery.

Over 20 million people in America suffer from anxiety or some form of anxiety disorder.

There are many methods of helping to reduce anxiety, such as seeing a therapist, taking medication or undergoing hypnosis.  However, those are all potentially pricey options and are not always available.  Also, if you suffer from anxiety, actually going to ask for help is something that ironically induces yet more anxiety.

Here are the top ten ways to help with your anxiety attacks.  The best news is that you can start trying them today – at no cost!

1.  Manage Your Stress Levels

Just admitting that you are feeling more stressed than you can cope with is a good start.  We all need a certain amount of stress just to function – but too much can make us physically, mentally and emotionally ill.  Obviously, it’s not possible to avoid all stress but it is possible to reduce the levels that you are under.  You must find something that helps you to unwind.  This could be listening to soothing music, watching a movie that makes you laugh or taking a walk in nature.  Whatever it is, it is important for you to do it, so make the time to do this and you will see a gradual lessening in your stress levels.

2.  Breathe!

Anxiety really affects how we breathe.  During an anxiety attack, we breathe faster and more shallowly.  Ironically, this sets up a chemical ‘vicious circle’ and it makes us breathe even faster and even more shallowly which in turn, makes us more anxious.  This is called hyperventilation.  So, you have to learn how to break this cycle.  As soon as you realize that your breathing is speeding up, focus on it and force yourself to take a few slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.  This may take a few tries but stick with it.  Your breathing will eventually slow and deepen and your anxiety level will start to drop.

3.  See your way out…

This is a technique which is often taught by therapists and it is called visualization.  This simply means ‘seeing’ yourself in another setting and another state.  It is really just imagination but at a strong level.  The next time you start to feel anxious, imagine yourself feeling totally relaxed in a safe, relaxing place – such as lying in the sun on a beautiful tropical beach, or relaxing in a deep, warm bubble bath.  It’s a good idea to practice your visualization at a time when you’re not feeling anxious so that it is easy to summon your image when you are.  The setting is up to you but make sure it is a situation where you would feel safe and relaxed…and don’t forget to breathe!

4.  Learn to Meditate

This is one of the best ways to relax.  If you are new to meditation and a little nervous about it, why not buy an audio CD of a ‘guided’ meditation.  This is one where a voice tells you what to do, step by step.  It is usually spoken over a background of soothing music or sounds, such as waves.  Shop around and find one that appeals to you.

Try it out at a time when you know you’re not going to be disturbed.  Take the phone off the hook and enjoy!  For maximum benefit, try and fit meditation into your daily life.  Even ten minutes before you get out of bed in the morning will bring huge results.

5.  Relax your body

If we feel anxious in our mind – our body follows.  If you feel emotionally and mentally tense your body will too.  Anxiety tenses the muscles so that you are ready to run!  This doesn’t just happen at times of anxiety.  Once the feelings of anxiety have gone, the body may still be tensed and on ‘red alert’.  Make it part of your routine to do something to relax those tense muscles.  This could be as simple as taking a bubble bath – which would also help you with visualizing that form of relaxation when required!  Having a regular massage is also beneficial if that is an option.

6.  Sleep well…

Sleep is essential to help us to function properly.  Have you ever noticed that if you are low on sleep, things start to get on top of you much more easily?  If you are prone to anxiety, that is the last thing that you need.  If you are suffering from a lack of sleep due to anxiety then it becomes doubly important to beat this.  How to get a good nights’ sleep is a whole other article – but there is a lot of help available on the internet.  Do some research and make sure that you try all of the suggestions before opting for medications – herbal or otherwise.

7.  Eat properly

Some people who suffer from anxiety find that it affects their appetite.  Some react by over eating and others by going right off their food.  However, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to help your body to function correctly.  Over eating or over indulging in sugary snacks can cause a consequent drop in blood sugar which can make you feel sluggish, lethargic and then miserable.  Not eating enough can make you lightheaded, jittery and anxious.  Your body is saying “feed me!”  If you can’t bring yourself to address this, imagine your car.  If you don’t put gas, oil or water in it, it won’t run.  Your body won’t run if you don’t put the required nutrients into it.  Be kind to yourself.  That concept isn’t an easy one if you suffer from anxiety but it does pay dividends.  Work on helping yourself instead of beating yourself up.  You’re a good person…you deserve it!

8.  You’re going to hate this but…exercise!

Sorry!  But we don’t mean that you should hit the gym for an hour every morning.  Even going for a short walk a few times a week can bring major changes to how you feel.  This is one of the best ways to relieve stress and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.  It is medically proven that just walking for 30 minutes three times a week helps your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.  And don’t forget that 30 minutes means 15 minutes outward bound and 15 minutes coming back.  That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

9.  Lay off the stimulants

This is one is a challenge.  The difficulty is that the more stressed or anxious a person is, the more they tend to lean on stimulants and perceived ‘crutches’ such a cigarettes, tobacco, coffee or drugs of one kind or another.  The irony is that all of these things can actually increase anxiety because they stimulate your system.  Think how jumpy you feel after several cups of strong coffee!  To really help yourself, the best thing is to stop using these.  Of course, if you are anxious, the last thing that you are going to want to do is lose your prop.  So leave this one until you have mastered a few of the others and then start by cutting down.  Stopping altogether is the ultimate help – but cutting down is great too!

10.  Don’t suffer alone

Sadly, many anxiety sufferers are ashamed and struggle on, trying to keep their secret.  The truth is that many, many people suffer from anxiety.  You are not alone.  If your family isn’t aware of how you are feeling, try confiding in them.  You might be surprised at how supportive they are.  Or tell a friend.  If you really don’t wish to share how you feel, look online for support groups where you can read what other people write.  Just type anxiety forum into your search engine (i.e. Google) and you will be surprised how many there are!  You really are not alone with this.  There are many books by people who have suffered and conquered anxiety – check out Amazon and read the reviews before you buy to see which author is likely to help you the most.

We hope that very soon you will be able to overcome this crippling issue and to enjoy your life at last.   If you have tried all of the above and still feel that anxiety is ruling your life, then it may be time to visit your Doctor.  We wish you the very best of luck and good health.

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