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Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation 

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

Tired of Being Anxious? Try this Simple Strategy to Reduce Stress in Your Daily Life. 

Everywhere you look these days, people seem to be professing the benefits of mindfulness. Yogis have been talking about it for thousands of years, and now Western science is finally starting to catch up with what some sages have known for ages. But what is mindfulness anyway? And why should you care? 

To put it succinctly, Ronald Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, states that mindfulness is: "awareness of present experience with acceptance." 

Sounds simple enough, but it can be trickier than you think. 

How often are you really present and aware? 

In this age of social media, cell phones, computers, tablets and smart watches, how often do you pause, disconnect from the media-saturated digital world and connect with the world around you? How often do you wait in line or for the train or bus, for example, and really just wait? Can you do it without listening to music on your iPhone or checking the latest snapchats or emails? 

The iPhone was released when I was in college, and I remember vividly the day when I looked around campus as I was walking to class and thought - Does anyone just walk anymore? I looked around and saw that nearly everyone had headphones on or was talking on the phone. Not many people were simply walking and interacting with the environment around them. With time, I started to get uncomfortable walking across campus without talking on the phone or listening to something on my phone. I noticed that it took a lot of energy and discipline to go against the sudden social tendency to never be fully present and aware. 

After I graduated I got a job, and before I knew it I was attached at the hip to my iPhone and all my work emails and texts. I was never alone - someone could always reach me. I started to resent my phone. I yearned for a simpler time when people had to pick up the phone to reach people, or had to type things on a typewriter rather than answer hundreds of emails and update several spreadsheets a day. 

Did that idyllic time ever exist? 

Probably not.

Regardless of the current technology, humans will always find ways to not be present. We are so often lost in our own thoughts about the future or past, and rarely are we fully aware and present. So I can blame technology if I want, but ultimately, as I realized, the choice to be present is mine and mine alone. 

If any of what you've read so far resonates with you, you might be wondering, "okay, so why should I care? What can a mindfulness practice offer me?" 

While it won't make all your troubles away - it will help change how you respond to daily life and ultimately live in a way that reduces anxiety and worry. 

In simple terms, here are 5 basic principles of mindfulness that, when understood and put into practice, can take you a long way: 

  • Recognize that you are not your thoughts. 
  • Observe your thoughts, but do not judge them. Don't try and suppress them or get rid of them. Just notice your thoughts and allow them to float by without engaging with them. 
  • Practice becoming immersed in the environment around you. Take off your headphones. Turn off your smartphone. Look at the world around you. 
  • Take note of patterns of thoughts that occur often and label them so that when they come up again, you can say, "Oh, there's that thought pattern again..." Acknowledge it, and move on. 
  • Return to your breath - be in your body, and take in the world as it presently is around you.

What's even more important than all of these tips is actually making time for them! We often get wrapped up in the runaway train of our thoughts because we think we don't have enough time. Don't get on that train. Pause. Breathe. Take time for yourself, even if it's just a minute, and see what happens. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, 05/17/2016

The Benefits of Mindful Meditation for Children 

It's always exciting when scientific studies start to show what we already know about meditation. A number of studies held in the past five years are now starting to quantify how mindfulness and meditation practices are beneficial for elementary school-aged children. In a recent blog post on the New York Times Wellness Blog, one study showed that meditation over a period of 4 weeks improved children's executive functioning and even improved math grades. Furthermore, a different scientific review published in March concluded that meditation can positively change the structure of the brain to improve academic performance. 

Studies also showed that Meditation can also have the greatest effect on the cognition of the brain if it's done during childhood, due to the plasticity of the brain during that time. Thus, the earlier one meditates, the more effective the impact is on one's brain development.

Some scientists also shared personal examples of how mindfulness practices have supported and improved the lives of their children. For example, one scientist who practices Transcendental Meditation (TM) cited that she's noticed her 9-year-old daughter turning to mindfulness centering techniques of her own volition when she finds herself getting emotional. Thus, her daughter is able to better self-regulate her emotions. 

Another researcher shared a similar observation regarding meditation and her son who has A.D.H.D and bi-polar disorder. She has seen that when he takes a moment to focus on a mindfulness exercise, he is able to resolve his mood swings or anger with more ease.

Ultimately, by teaching children mindfulness meditation - parents and teachers are providing children with the tools to learn how to process emotions better and relate to the world with more focus and self-control. These are tools that will benefit anyone for a lifetime. 

Article written by Rajmani Sinclair, May 11, 2016

How Meditation Changes the Structure of Your Brain  


Did you know that meditating on a regular basis can actually change the structure of your brain? In case you were wondering why meditation can have so many benefits, including stress reduction, the results from a study conducted by Harvard affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has some answers for you. In 2011, the team of researchers published an article in the journal: Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging where they shared their results of the first study to every illustrate that meditation does in fact produce structural changes to the brain over time. 

Sara Lazar, a senior author of the study and an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical school, shared: "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing." 

The changes that Sara Lazar is referring to have to do with grey matter in the brain. It has been shown in other clinical studies that the amount of grey matter in different parts of the brain correlates to, for example, how intelligent a person is. In the study on meditation and the brain led by MGH, researchers discovered that meditating on a consistent basis for 8 weeks increased the grey matter in the hippocampus and decreased the grey matter in the amygdala in the brains of the participants. Increased grey matter in the hippocampus leads to improved learning and memory, as well as an increase in self-awareness, compassion and introspection. The amygdala, on the other hand, is correlated with stress and anxiety. So less grey matter in that area means a person will experience less stress and anxiety. 


Participants in the study participated in an 8-week Mindfullness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, where they participated in at least 27 minutes a day of mindfulness exercises. Magnetic Resonance (MR) images were taken of participants brains before and after the MBSR program. MR images were also taken of a control group who did not participate in the MBSR study, and no significant structural changes took place in their brains compared to those who participated in the 8-week MBSR program. 

As Britta Holzel so aptly sums up the study's findings: "It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” 

Written by: Rajmani Sinclair, April 26, 2016

Happy October! Celebrate With Our 20 Favorite Yoga Quotes 

Yoga is so much more than looking great. Don't get us wrong, the body you can get from yoga is amazing, but what the practice does for the mind and soul can completely transform your life. Celebrate October by firing your practice with these inspirational quotes from Inner Splendor Media. 

1.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."

-Rumi

 

2.

 

3.

“You only lose what you cling to.”

-Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

 

4.

5.

“The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”

- Yogi Bhajan

 

6.

7.

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”

- Osho

 

8.

9.

"Learn how to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”

- Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

 

10.

11.

“We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds.“

-Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

 

12.

 

13.

“This yoga should be practiced with firm determination and perseverance, without any mental reservation or doubts.”

-Bhagavad Gita

 

14.

15.

“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.”

- B.K.S. Iyengar

 

16.

 

17.

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past, or a pioneer of the future.”

-Deepak Chopra

 

18.

19.

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.“

-Buddha

 

20.

*Namaste*- The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.

With love from us to you :)

Compiled by: Gal Shyli Dayan

Meditation 101- Part II 

How Do You Meditate?
Volumes have been written about the process to cultivate a state of meditation. There may be as many methods and good suggestions as there are meditators. If you consider your meditation a journey rather than a destination, no matter how you meditate, you will be sure to enjoy learning what works best for you.

Here are some components you'll want to consider when putting together a personal practice. It can also be a great support to meditate with others.

Pick a place: Meditation is the most portable practice around. Many people meditate on public transportation and simply close their eyes. In those cases, all you need is a space to sit or stand and a
way of minimizing interruptions.

Creating a place to meditate can be as simple as closing the door, if you have the luxury of one, putting your phone on airplane and closing your computer. For a continued practice, you’ll find that a clean spot you can designate just for meditation will create, over time, a magic carpet effect, similar to how reserving your bedroom for only quieting activities (vs work or TV) will whisk you right into sleep.

 
Many people like to create beauty or meaning in their meditation area by having fresh flowers or placing pictures of meaningful objects or people. The ritual of preserving such a space, like the Japanese tea ceremony, often becomes a meditation in and of itself. 
 

Pick a time: Depending on whether you’re a person of steady habits or a creative genius, the time you pick may or may not be at the same time everyday. If your stress hits the roof, you may need an emergency meditation minute and any time will do, you just need to pick it. While this is obvious, it’s easy to forget this as many of us can let our perfectionism prevent us from meditating at all simply because of how or when we think meditation ought to happen.
 
Good times to meditate are during natural pauses in the rhythm of your day, whether that’s first thing in the morning when you wake or right before you go to bed. Be on the lookout for when contact with nature presents you with an opportunity to meditate - you’ve reached the top of the hill or dusk is settling over the city beyond your window. There’s a natural call to silence and if you heed it, even for a second, you may find that meditation happens on its own.
 
Pick an intention:

 This goes back to the question “Why meditate?” It’s important to answer this for yourself just so you can recognize if you’re meeting your own objectives. A meditator buddy once told me, "if you don’t put orange juice on your grocery list, you’ll find you leave the grocery store with everything but that." Sitting down for meditation or any practice can be just like that: if you don't set a goal, then you're liable not to to have any sense of purpose.
And then of course, once you define what you’d like to attain, hold it lightly so that there's room for the natural pace of things. Expectations held too tightly can choke the air right out of your practice and blind you to the lovely unexpected developments that will happen along the way.
 
Pick a posture: There are many postures recommended for meditation from the classic cross-legged position, to standing mindfully or lying down, to simply pushing back from your desk and meditating in your everyday chair.
 
It’s good to explore which posture feels best, which may change over time as your body changes. What all postures conducive to meditation have in common is that the spine is free and long, with the head in a direct line over the hips.
 
Don’t hesitate to use a chair – you’ll want to be kind to your body, especially over time. If you use a chair, try keeping your feet flat on the floor with your legs parallel so that you can feel anchored. That sense of solid foundation can help you relax and settle into a meditative state more easily.

Lying in bed can be challenging as you may fall asleep if you’re just starting a meditation practice, but if it will get you meditating, don’t hesitate to try it.
 
Best advice: create a posture that allows your body to feel steady and comfortable as easily as possible.
 
Pick a method or focus
How is this different from a intention? A focus is what you're aiming for (e.g. more peace) while a method is how you plan to get there (e.g. watching your breath).
Popular ways to meditate include:
  • watch the breath. simply observe the flow of your breath as it comes in and out of your body
  • repeat a phrase that is meaningful to you, or a mantra like OM that you repeat either out loud or softly to yourself
  • scan your body for sensations and simply observe them
  • pick an image like a serene lake and visualize that. Some folks like to pick a physical object to focus on and to rest their gaze softly, with eyes half-closed on the flame of a candle or a geometric pattern
  • listen to a guided meditation or meditative music
The benefit of picking a focus is that as you meditate, when you notice that you've become distracted (composing a grocery list or writing that report for your boss), you can gently bring your awareness back to that focus. 
 
Pick a length of time
Whether you meditate once a week for five minutes or an hour a day, an easy way to create an instant meditation win is to set an amount of time and stick to it. Say you’ll meditate for a minute and set the timer on your phone. No matter what else, you will have created a pause in your day and just that is a modern day miracle.

When beginning or restarting a practice, try starting with short amounts of time. The idea is not to add yet another thing to your to-do list that will weigh you down. Make it easy for yourself and when those 2 or 3 minutes start becoming something you look forward to, increase the amount of time gradually. Not that it's a race, but we suggest betting on the tortoise.


Finally, the best ingredients to keep your meditation going:
  • Commitment: just stick with it;
  • Compassion: be gentle with yourself no matter what happens or doesn’t;
  • Detachment: it is what it is; 
  • Reflection: take a moment to consider (vs. analyze or judge) your experience of meditation. It’s excellent if you can write down the landmarks of each meditation experience, but just pausing a couple seconds to mentally list what happened (stillness, agitation, a deepening of the breath) will provide you with an invaluable owner’s manual for your own fascinating self.
Like a circle of loyal friends, cultivating these qualities within yourself will pick you up when you’re down, keep you present to the growth that does happen, at your own, personally perfect pace (in the Rolling Stones sense of you don’t always get want you want but you just might get what you need) and delight you as you discover the countless and surprising ways that the benefits of meditation show up in all other areas of your life.
 
~text & illustrations by Lila Galindo

Meditation 101- Part I 

Whether you’re about to meditate for the first or 100th time, it’s great to ask yourself these basic questions: What is meditation? Why meditate? and How do you do it?
As you explore these questions, as I have for the past 27 years, you'll find that there are many answers from many sources, including what may be the most valuable one: your own experience.  Without fail, the simple step of asking these questions can be a wonderful way to start or jumpstart your practice of meditation.
 
Part I of this post takes a look at the first two questions, offering a variety of answers along with some resources for further exploration. Scroll down to the very end of the article for instructions on three basic meditations of varying length to get you started (1 minute, and 2 methods for a 3-5 minute meditation). And stay tuned for Part IIwhich explores the various components of how to meditate.
 
Please share your own answers or questions in the comments below! We also invite you to explore this website and discover Inner Splendor's many different supports for your meditation practice. 

Happy meditating! 
~ text & illustrations by Lila Galindo
 

What Is Meditation?
Defined most simply, meditation is the act or state of sustaining focus. This means that we are all natural meditators since without the ability to focus, no activity from driving a car to writing an article to listening to a friend would be possible. Knowing that meditation is already an innate skill, however untapped, can help demystify the practice and encourage even the most skeptical among us to give it a go.
 
Whether meditation is defined in the classic sense of “stilling the thought-waves of the mind” (Patanjali Yoga Sutra) or scientifically, as a sustained period of theta brain waves, the common denominator of any definition of meditation is that, in contrast to all other activities of wakefulness, we turn our focus inward rather than outward. In other words, meditation involves taking a conscious pause during the day to unplug from doing and tune into being. Whether the pause lasts for the span of a breath or for many minutes, that contact with the stillness and spaciousness inside ourselves, rather than the busy world outside of us, is meditation.
 
Because we frequently encounter a steady stream of thinking when we close our eyes and focus inward, the practice of meditation often comes down to how we deal with thoughts. One of the most helpful things to remember, is that we are normally moving so fast that we don't even realize that our thoughts are racing 100 miles per hour or faster. So just realizing that you're thinking, and then to actually separate the thought from your essential self, is a huge accomplishment!

Jon-Kabat Zinn, pioneer of Mind Body Stress Reduction (MBSR) defines meditation as the “process of observing the mind and body intentionally, of letting your experience unfold from moment to moment and accepting them as they are.” While this may not be easy to do at first, like any muscle, with regular use and gentle attention, little by little, practice does make it easier.

 
Why Meditate?
Whether you're building world peace by contributing your own stillness, or your doctor recommended meditation to help lower your blood pressure, the reasons for meditating are as varied as the people who meditate the world over. All reasons are valid, and my advice is to identify and then respect your own reason and that of others.
 
Whether your approach is Buddhist, scientific, or one of your own creation, be willing to explore what works for you and when needed, change it up.
 
It’s very likely that your own reasons will change over time as you discover the many dimensions of a steady practice, but the value of identifying your own intention for meditating is that it gives you an easy yardstick for noticing the benefits. At least half of a meditation practice consists in noticing its effects - not necessarily during the time you dedicate to the practice, but upon the rest of your day. 
 
Surfacing your intention – for example, “today I am meditating to learn to still my mind” or “today I will meditate as a prayer that all beings be free from pain” and following through on our intentions not only helps us feel self-satisfied but increases the likelihood of meditating again. Personally, in the face of suffering, whether it’s a global disaster or a family challenge, taking a few minutes to be still has a mysterious way of creating space and releasing feelings of impotency.

Meditating for even a short while will get you to stop for a few moments. Few us of us run our cars or other prized devices 24/7; we let them rest and recharge. Similarly, our most valuable tools - our bodies and minds- need down time in order to serve us well. 

Learning the art of pause by tapping into our most inner resources will reveal all the splendor within.

See these articles for more information and various techniques:
HeadSpace's Andy Puddicombe's video on the benefits of meditation
A round up of HuffPo articles on meditation.
Your brain on meditation:this Lifehacker article
Free Mindfulness Resources
Sample Meditations
Simple Posture Instructions
As you try any of the meditations below, follow these steps to find a comfortable position:
  1. Find a stable chair and place your feet flat on the floor. If possible, walk your feet a little forward so that they are directly below your knees and your thighs form a parallel line to the floor.
  2. Rest your hands lightly and gently on your thighs. Relax your arms.
  3. Breathe in deeply and let your shoulders broaden, letting your head come back so that it lines up above your shoulders.
  4. Breathe out fully and feel the seat solidly below you, let your spine release upward.
One Minute Meditation:
Set a timer for sixty seconds. Close your eyes and simply repeat steps 3 & 4 until the bell rings. If you don't have a timer, simply breathe slowly, deeply and at a steady pace for 10 to 15 breaths. If you'd like more guidance in this simple technique, check out Martin Boronson's 5 minute video on One Moment Meditation, which includes a guided minute.


Three - Five Minute Meditation:
Method A: One of the pillars of MBSR is the body scan. All you need is your body and a space to sit quietly and slowly internally scan your body from head to toe, or rather from feet to head. To do this you simply let your attention rest first on different places in your body, one at a time, and notice - as much as possible without judgment - how that part feels. Some people find it helpful to start at the feet and move up toward the head: scanning feet, calves, knees, thighs, pelvis & seat, abdomen, chest, arms, hands, neck, and head. Other people prefer to simply notice where they have any sensation or to check in with key areas, and again, simply notice what is present. 
If trying this technique for the first time, you may find it helpful to scan the main parts of the body in this way: breathe in and lightly clench the feet (or calves, knees, etc.), breathe and release the clench. Proceed to the next area, moving upward until you reach the head. 

Method B: For a short period of time, focus on a sound, a track of music or a mantra. Watch the video on our home page here for this 6 minute chant of OM from Inner Splendor Media's popular album, Chanting Om - Meditation on the 7 Chakras. Either chant along or allow the sound to enter your ears and permeate your body. Notice the impact of this focus after the track ends.


Chanting Om from Mystical Journey from Music for Deep Meditation (Video) 

In the yogic tradition, the chakras are subtle energy centers that regulate gross and subtle functions of the body, our emotions and mind. When the chakras are purified, one experiences optimal health, peace of mind, a constant feeling of well-being and ultimately a merging with our true divine nature.
It was the ancient yogis who originally felt, saw and experienced the power of the chakras. They also heard their subtle vibrations in meditation. Each chakra vibrates at a certain frequency and based on these various vibrations, the yogis came up with the Bija, or seed mantras, for each energy center. These sacred mantras have the power to energize and purify the chakras and fill your subtle body with vitality.

The excerpt below of the chanting of the sacred syllable Om is from the album 'Mystical Journey" by Music for Deep Meditation.  Enjoy!


Here's What You Need to Know About the Total Solar Eclipse on March 20th 

This week, on Friday, March 20th, a total solar eclipse will take place over Europe, visible as a partial eclipse in much of the continent. With reductions in sunlight varying from 84% in London to an extraordinary 94% in Northern Scotland, it will be the largest partial eclipse to be seen in Great Britain since the year 1999. Many umbraphiles (or eclipse lovers) in Europe are preparing to travel north to Norway and the Faroe Islands, where the eclipse can be viewed in totality, or in other words, as a total solar eclipse (as shown in the above picture).

And if that's not enough for you, the eclipse will also occur simultaneous with a supermoon; a full moon at its closest point to Earth that, consequently, appears to be larger in the sky. Looks like the heavens are pulling out all the stops!
 
For those of you unfamiliar with solar eclipses, they occur when the Moon's orbit temporarily crosses in front of the sun, blocking it from view. The "path of totality" is the area on the Earth’s surface directly under the darkest part of the moon's shadow, known as the umbral shadow. Within this region, the sun is completely covered and a total eclipse is seen. On either side of the path of totality, observers will see a partial eclipse.Locations that will see a total eclipse for about 2 minutes include the Faroe Islands, Spitsbergen (Norway), and Longyearbyen (Norway). Just outside the path of totality, a very large partial eclipse will be visible in Great Britain, Iceland, Greenland and parts of Russia. A much more subtle eclipse may be visible in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The below graphic shows different vantage points on the British Isles, along with the percentage of sunlight decrease and the peak eclipse time for each area.
Astronomy Now graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby

In Eastern spirituality, an eclipse is thought to be a particularly poignant time to practice meditation, mantra repetition, and chanting. The energy of an eclipse pulls our consciousness inwards, leading us to deepened spiritual experiences. Even birds and other animals will interrupt their days to prepare for sleep and refrain from eating during an eclipse. It is recommended that we follow the animals' example: eat light and, if possible, refraining from heavy traveling. Remember, nature is guiding you inward at this time. 
Image created by Nate Gonzalez
 
Some feel the energetic effects of an eclipse for a couple of days before and after the actual event, at which time emotions can become heightened. For this reason, we can mentally and spiritually prepare before an eclipse by mindfully watching our thoughts and feelings. While mindfulness is always a good practice, it may be extra necessary during a large-scale celestial event.

Needless to say, there are many superstitions surrounding eclipses. Some think they have an adverse effect on pregnant women, while others adopt bizarre rituals to ward off misfortune. In ancient times, our ancestors feared eclipses as signs of a wrathful God or apocalyptic omens, and Ancient Greeks associated them with terrifying, blood thirsty wolf demons! Nowadays, we've come to realize the futility of fear during an eclipse. To the contrary, many of us recognize such an event as a time to focus on the expansiveness of the Self.

So get ready to explore the inner realms, and have a happy, peaceful eclipse! 

Author: Nate Morgan

Lakshmi Gayatri Mantra for Attracting Abundance (Video)  


In the mystical tradition of India, Lakshmi represents everything that is beautiful, abundant and radiant. The power of Lakshmi is not limited what we see, feel, and taste through our senses, we can feel her power inside.  When you feel generous, when you feel free, when you feel gratitude for everything you already have, that is the shakti, the energy of Lakshmi in action inside of you. 

Below you can listen and chant along to the Gayatri Lakshmi mantra.  This mantra is one of the most potent invocations to the deity in sound form.  If you prefer you can simply close your eyes and meditate and listen to the mantra.  Enjoy! 

Vidura Barrios




 
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