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What We Need To Know About Humor

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What We Need To Know About Humor

I'm enjoying a new site I've stumbled upon,
where visitors can read about research on happiness.
I'm remembering that gratitude improves your mood, that a good laugh has lasting effects in your body way past the time it stops, that my happiness has a ripple effect way beyond my social horizon, and that spending money on others and doing small acts of kindness is a happy making activity.
I'll be going back to

Becoming Compared to Being

There appears to be an ongoing opportunity to become more, or to evolve into a better version of yourself and to get somewhere in life. At the same time there appears to be an ever present opening to step back from any effort associated with becoming, evolving and arriving, and instead to rest in the awareness of what it is like to be.

Look Instead At Being
Being is a not a destination, or an outcome. It's not a goal or an aspiration. Rather it is what is already, and always present. Being isn't a result of becoming; it is rather that state what is already so. Awareness of being to me means noticing the contrast between focusing on an object and watching what is already so. Objects (outcomes, goals, events, and/or people) rise and fall. When they come and go, being isn't affected. When objects come and go they sometimes appear to consume all awareness, eating up every bit of attention we have. So it happens that occasionally, instead of looking at what is so, we look entirely at objects that are coming and going.

There appears to be an ongoing opportunity to not try to become aware of anything other than of being. Even for a moment once a day, now and then, to watch where attention is landing. It may be, and necessarily so, that attention is on a task or developing a skill or thinking through to a solution. And, at the same time there is also quietness at the core of whatever activity is taking place, that can be noticed for a moment.

If I Could Pause For a Moment
Even right now the quietness waits to be noticed. If I can pause for a moment, and stop my reaching for this or that, stop trying to prevent this or that, stop trying to accomplish this or that, just for a brief moment, and notice what is already here in a moment of being, I may begin to notice and understand the differences and similarities between becoming and being.

Try This
Using a smart phone or similar device that can alert you when 10 minutes have passed, sit in a comfortable position, either outside or inside. After setting the device, simply sit without any rules or expectations. Try not to attempt to make your thoughts do anything in particular. Instead, see if you can adopt an attitude of watching what passes through your awareness. This is a meditation practice that is intended to be engaged in without strain or effort. Over time, the practice may lead you to an understanding of the difference between becoming and being.

Edward Viljoen is author of The Power of Meditation: an Ancient Technique to Access your Inner Power, The Bhagavad-Gita for Beginners: The Song of God in Simplified Prose and The Science of Mind and Spirit for Beginners: Four Chapters in Simplified Prose. He co-authored (with Chris Michaels) The Prosperous Life Journal, and Practice the Presence, interactive journals available from Stepping Stones Bookstore. He is co-author (with Joyce Duffala) of Seeing Good At Work.

Edward's books are available at Amazon
Visit his blog: Edblogword
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Just Because - Intuition and Why It's Important

When I was a child I used to make up elaborate games with very complicated rules.  If I successfully managed to convince an adult or friend to play my game with me, I would take care to explain the detailed rules carefully so that they would make as much sense to them as they did to me.  Inevitably one of my careful explanations would be met with the question "why?"  It was exasperating to me because I didn't know the answer most of the time, I only knew that when I made the game rules they all fit together perfectly well.  So I would simply answer, "just because!" which turned out to be equally exasperating to my would be playmate.
It turns out that "just because" was an answer I would use to explain a lot of thing I knew, but didn't know why I knew them, or didn't understand how I came to be so certain about them.  For example if asked "why do you like your brother?" a perfectly complete and proper answer would be "just because."  My mother used a similar technique when I asked her why I could or couldn't do a thing and would answer "just because" or the more frightening version "because I said so!"
Things haven't changed that much.  
I still find myself in situations where I just know something to be so, or I have a feeling that convinces me about something, or I have a sense that I ought to do this or that and I don't rightly know why it is I know so definitely why I should follow that sense.  Today if I am challenged with "why?" I don't answer like I did as a child with "just because" although I want to.  Now I have to have a careful and proper explanation for my choices and decisions.  I have to come up with a well thought out reason for whatever it is.  So I've learned to refer to the authority of what is going on around me more and more, and less to what I sense.  The up side of doing so is that people around me feel more confident with an externally verified reason for doing something, but the down side is that my sensitivity to my felt experience of knowing began to decrease as I started to down play its role in my thinking.
Now and then I would get that uneasy feeling about a decision that prompted me to do, say or think something that seemed out of step with conventional wisdom and I would carefully suppress it and go with the popular choice.  I've talked to dozens of people who have noticed the same tendency and have bottled-up their messy intuitive nudges for fear of a wrinkled up nose response of "why would you do that?"
Human beings, it seems, have an external and an internal sense perception.  
Externally we navigate thanks to the brilliance of our sense perceptions and how the world appears to us.  Internally our navigation system depends on something abstract and elusive, a felt sensation some call intuition.  The emphasis appears to be on external information for plotting a course through this life and guidance through our intuitive nature, whatever it is understood to be, is rarely taught or explored as a viable way of evaluating one path over the other.
But who hasn’t had an idea in the middle of the night to make a specific and major course correction whether that is in a relationship or in a career or something else?  It might be one of those absolutely illogical choices that everyone would say "you're crazy" to with substantial logical reasons to back up their outrage.  And, when you take a moment to think about it, their reasonable counters to your idea seem solid and right and spell out exactly why you should not make the change you are flirting with.  And yet, you can't shake the feeling of rightness about making the change and you don't know the answer to the question 'why?' other than to say sheepishly, 'just because.'
We feel things and we know things intuitively.
It's a difficult thing to measure and test something that cannot be seen, recorded and counted
.  And there is much to us which is in that realm of the invisible.  We feel things and we know things intuitively, in ways that we cannot define or explain.  Those inner prompts cannot be measured or explained completely and they leave much to be desired when it comes to clarity and reliability, but they are there, in us as sure as the intelligence to grow our fingernails is in us.  This felt reality inside of us is where I believe we intersect with that "intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection," that Albert Einstein talked of.
Hans Selye, the Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist who is considered by some to be the first scientist to demonstrate the existence of biological stress said that "the fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. He who knows it not, and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead. We all had this priceless talent when we were young. But as time goes by, many of us lose it. The true scientist never loses the faculty of amazement. It is the essence of his being." (Today in Science History,   
We have to develop resistance and even defiance.
There is so much that we don’t understand, like for example, our intuition, our ability to know without the process of reasoning.  It is such a rich source of great ideas for our lives that get us excited and charged up to go ahead and do great things that no amount of careful planning and analysis can achieve.  And to develop sensitivity to that intuitive faculty takes resilience because there is a strong cultural voice of suspicion about its accuracy and rightly so -- because it is difficult to sort through and know the difference between intuition, fantasy, cultural messages and everything else floating around inside.  Nevertheless, even with all known issues and shortcomings, whatever the reason for disconnecting from our intuition, my opinion is that we have to stop depriving ourselves of one of the greatest and most beautiful navigation assistance systems that is part of being a human being.  
I think we have to develop a resistance to the trend to minimize or ridicule our intuition, even defiance and to take on an adventurer's attitude for trying and testing what we are prompted to do from within.  Personally I don't think intuition will ever prompt you or anyone else to do something dangerous to self or others, and if you are prompted from within to do something inadvisable, that isn't intuition and ought not to be followed.  That's not to say intuition will not nudge you out onto the skinny branch, or whisper in your ear about the precise action you are nervous to take, it probably will.  But it doesn't, in my opinion, recommend reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible actions.
Sometimes it produces a grand idea about your life, or even a weird idea about your current line of action and you may have a healthy dose of second guessing yourself to go through.  You may also find tremendous resistance from those around you and a sense that no one understands you.  There is a story of the famous chemist and inventor of Vaseline, Sir Robert Augustus Chesebrough could not get anyone to take his new product seriously.  He had to literally burn himself and apply the salve on his own wounds in front of audiences to demonstrate what Vaseline was capable of.  Sometimes you have to be your own authority and move on your good ideas even if no one readily accepts them.  Sometimes the experts are the ones who will be the voice of negation.  Thomas Edison, who gave the world so much through his genius is said to have commented that the talking picture would never supplant the regular silent motion pictures of his time, and that the phonograph had no commercial value and that the radio craze will soon die out.
Part of the problem is that when the respected experts and trusted friends tell us something, being the believing creatures that we are, we think about what they say seriously and sometimes take their opinion for truth, not listening equally to the countless prompts from inside to the contrary. 
Ordinary Awareness is a Mysterious Affair.
The world out there is not black and white and not set in concrete, even though reality seems to be something fixed and solid.  It is not.  In a very real sense, what we regard as ordinary consciousness is a great and mysterious affair; some would say even an illusion.  
But that is the world out there; there IS something that is permanent, unchanging, constant, regular, and dependable.  I call it reality, and to me this reality remains a vastly unexplored territory in which so much is possible that is not obvious. We have to look inside to find it.  We can practice cultivating it, or listening to it and drawing up on it to bring light into the world.  We are already uncannily aware of what is going on around us, but may have fallen into a dream in which we think only what appears before us concretely is real.  We already have a vast capacity to absorb and understand by means of both logical and sensed knowing, but may have forgotten or abandoned the powerful awareness that come from the subtle blend of inner and outer knowing. 
I am willing to risk admitting that I do not absolutely understand the process of calling upon this inner something, yet that does not seem to matter in the slightest, because I intuitively sense the unseen, I intuitively feel the unknown, I am more than somewhat inclined to believe that there is a presence that many call God, that I call Reality, and I trust that in It is our hope and salvation.

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The Healing Power of Humor

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Dr. Edward Viljoen speaks on the topic "What you get when you laugh," a message inspired by Allen Klein's book, The Healing Power of Humor

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How to Make Decisions

Making decisions can be tough. I sometimes fantasize about writing to advice columnists for the really difficulty decisions because getting input from other people is one way to gain clarity about decisions. In the end, however, I have to take responsibility for the decision I make regardless of whom I consult.

How many decisions did you make in a day?

We probably can’t remember all of them. The fact is we are making decisions all the time. It can be a fairly simple process such as making a selection and choosing one thing over another. Shall I have my eggs scrambled, or over easy? Shall I wear black or blue today? Shall I drive to the gym or walk? Most likely we also change our minds frequently in the course of a day when it comes to these simple decisions. Nope, I’ve changed my mind; I’m going to drive to the gym after all.

When it comes to tougher decisions, the ones that are life changing, they loom larger and seem to be more difficult to make. Shall I stay married, or shall I get a divorce? Shall I sell this property, or should I hold onto it until the market improves? Should I stay with this job and be secure, or should I venture out into a new are and do something I really want to do?

What is it about these decisions that make them so difficult?

Part of the challenge comes with considering the consequences of one choice over the other and we begin to entertain the answer to what if? Thinking about all the possible alternatives can be exhausting - who wants to make a decision after all that mental strain? Then there is the haunting worry of making the correct choice in the end.

One of the most unproductive mental exercises I engage in when I’m trying to make a decision is that of imagining the worst case scenario for each possible outcome in the decision. It is as if some voice in me imagines that if I let myself get all stewed up and thoroughly investigate the worst case outcomes it will truly help me make the decision.

What Happens Next? The Power of Meditation

Dr. Edward talks about what we can expect after we have successfully established a meditation practice.  For example, we can expect an increase in clarity and a decrease in attachment.  We can expect shifts in perspective and a sense of inward quiet.   There is no one size fits all in the practice of meditation, however, there is a way that works for you, and Dr. Edward's intention is to encourage everyone to find their own perfect practice.

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Dealing With A Restless Mind: The Power of Meditation

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Dr. Edward talks about The Power of Meditation and some of the common myths that prevent us from establishing a regular meditation practice.

Intentions, Friends and Unintended Outcomes

came upon an interesting definition of

the word "intention" on Wikipedia which got me thinking about all the influencing factors that determine whether or not our intentions become realized, such as hidden or unexplored beliefs associated with an intention:

"Intention is an agent's specific purpose in performing an action or series of actions, the end or goal that is aimed at. Outcomes that are not anticipated and not foreseen are known as unintended consequences.

"Intentional behavior can also be just thoughtful and deliberate goal-directedness. Recent research in experimental philosophy has shown that other factors may also matter for whether or not an action is counted as intentional."  (Wikipedia)

Discovering these "other" factors is the heart of spiritual work, and sometimes the frustrating part of the work because these factors can be hidden from our view even though they may be in plain view to others around us.  It's typically easier to see the blocks preventing other people from moving towards their intentions than it is to see our own blocks. Where there is stress in a person's life there is typically also an "other" factor at play and it is worthwhile pausing to explore what it might be rather than pushing through toward an intention.  

Asking a trusted friend what blocks they perceive in us can be helpful.  However, picking who to ask requires careful thought too. Someone who loves you, who is a loyal, trusted friend may be a good place to begin.  Most important is to be willing to listen to what they offer without defense. 

I asked a friend recently what he saw in me that might be blocking my progress towards my intention to live more joyously and he told me exactly what I didn't want to hear. Nevertheless, once I accepted that I already was aware of what he told me it became easier for me to take the practical steps that would allow the mysterious energy of intentions to draw me to my greater good. 

Is there an intention in your life that might benefit from the insight of a trusted friend?