Advent

A friend sent me a Jackie Lawson Advents Calendar, and it brought back vivid memories of enjoying this lovely gift last year, as well as my childhood memories from many years ago.

Advent was a very important time for me in my youth, not only because of its religious significance but also because of the family tradition, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Four Sundays before Christmas an “Adventskranz”, a wreath of fresh pine with four large red candles, was placed in the middle of the dining table. On the four consecutive Sundays before Christmas one candle was lit, starting with one candle on the first Sunday and ending with four lit candles on the Sunday before Christmas. This year the fourth Sunday falls on Christmas Eve which will make it very special for me since it was my Mother’s birthday.

In Germany we gathered around the Advents wreath each Sunday evening to sing and pray. It was very spiritual and festive, and I have fond memories of those special times. When Christmas finally came, I was pumped and ready, and the anticipation built up over the Advent was palpable in me.

Advent also brought the “Advent calendar” which served to count down the days to Christmas. In postwar Germany, chocolates and sweets were rare, and the calendar was a special delight because behind each window was a small chocolate, and my joy at finding a sweet treat during every day of Advent was immense.

Traditions are important. They keep our cultures and memories alive. Having lost my mother at 17, and immigrating to two countries with different ways of celebrating, I maintained a few traditions in my adult life. Advent is one of them. Our wreath is not fresh pine, but it adorns our breakfast table and while we don’t sing, Steve and I meditate in the gentle glow of the candles. It is very peaceful and brings joy into our hearts.

It doesn’t matter what traditions we chose to maintain. The objective is to find something which resonates within us and makes us feel alive and connected to our origins and who we have become. Why is this important you may ask? I believe that in order to live a centered and balanced life, the past and present need to flow harmoniously together. Just a few cherished memories can allow us to achieve this goal.

Advent is a great time to get into our spiritual mode and avoid being consumed by all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I wish you a most enjoyable holiday season.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Staying Positive

We are now living in a world where negativity seems to overshadow everything. Just turning on the television can make me depressed. People often seem to be on edge and short tempered. We can decide if we want to run with the herd, or if we will consciously fill our life with love, joy and happiness.

This is not as t as one might think, although it does take some effort. I know how I want to live the rest of my life. I will not listen to the bickering, doomsday preaching, blaming, finger pointing, and rough language. I am focused on a future filled with kindness, compassion, love, and empathy. I still watch the news, but I don’t linger there, staying just long enough to learn what is going on in the world. Then I go on with my life knowing that there is a bright future ahead, that things will work out, and that good ultimately prevails. I avoid blaming and judging and remind myself that there is no way to know why someone behaves in a certain way.

Meditation, mindfulness and affirmations are key to remaining positive, and I use them throughout the day and under any circumstances. Sometimes just counting to 10 before replying or reacting can be a great help. I practice this regularly and my life has become much easier and more peaceful. I listen, but I do not necessarily internalize what I hear. I respect other’s opinions and beliefs, even if they feel foreign and unreal. And by focusing on the good in everyone, even tense relationships can become pleasant.

Facing serious health challenges every day, I quickly realized that I don’t want to spend too much energy worrying and trying to change people. I really cannot change anyone. The future is uncertain for everyone, but I envision it bright and shining. By focusing on hope, optimism and faith, I remain positive and live in joy and harmony. Staying positive is and has always been a supporting pillar in my life.

Happy 4th of July!

Silvia Coggin, CPF
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

 

 

Meditation

MeditationUnder “Food For Thought” on the NotJustCooking.com website, I wrote some time ago about Prayer and Meditation, that essentially Prayer is asking and Meditation is listening. I believe very strongly in this but we often forget to listen after our prayers. It is only in the stillness of the mind that we can hear an answer. It is not necessarily a voice; it can be an intuition, a feeling, or just a vibrational awareness.

Meditation is a very important part of wellbeing, it helps us to find balance and to release unwanted thoughts and feelings. When I taught yoga years ago, I always ended my lesson with a meditation. My students loved it. I gave a brief guided meditation followed by music and breathing. I believe that to feel whole one needs to address the body and the mind.

Meditation has been practiced since antiquity and there are multiple traditions and ways. We are all different and are not attracted by the same things. That’s why we have to find the discipline which speaks to us and which allows us to relax and let resistance go. It really doesn’t matter if you like guided meditations, complete silence or music. You might want to lie down, sit comfortably or even engage in a walking meditation. One thing is important and doesn’t change: you have to be comfortable, breath deeply and regularly and let unwanted thoughts and feeling flow away. Watch them but don’t hold on or think about them. Breathe deeply and invite better feeling thoughts. The more you practice, the easier it gets, and then the day comes when you can meditate under any circumstances. Just the breathing will help you not overreact to an unwanted situation. For example, clearing your mind and attracting positive thoughts will assist you in not responding to or mishandling a challenge. This is not a traditional meditation, but I use it when necessary in congested and frustrating traffic, in a meeting when things become too emotional, just to mention a couple. But you cannot forget to follow up later with a deep meditation so you can release the stragglers, which might have lodged in your mind without your noticing them.

I will always remember a meditation practice that a yogi I worked with used when he was traveling. He settled in his seat in the airplane, closed his hand into a fist during take off and very slowly, one couldn’t see the movement, opened the fist and his hand was fully open when the plane landed. It was mind-boggling, and although I tried it many times, I was never able to even come close.

Meditation can become your constant companion and assist you in maintaining your balance and wellbeing more easily, no matter what!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Feeling Joy and Happiness

Feeling Joy and HappinessThe potential for joy and happiness resides within all of us. When we are with positive people it is easier to feel the joy and the pleasure from being with them. So we might think that it is people who bring us joy. In reality, the joy was always within us but we were able to feel it by being with them. So yes, they allow us to feel our joy and happiness and we feel in harmony.

The key to more constant joy and happiness is to maintain harmonic feelings, no matter what. To do that we can create a peaceful place in our mind where we consciously go to whenever necessary or desired. From this personal retreat we have access to the joy and happiness within us, and we can weather the storms in our lives. This haven of peace, of love and wellbeing is the same place we find when we meditate. It is where we can regenerate, rejuvenate and restore balance and harmony within us. It is also where we can heal; mentally as well as physically, and where miracles can happen.

This peaceful place looks different for each of us. You will know you have found it when you feel the peace and love it brings. Just clearing the mind of all the clutter will lead you to it, and it will quickly become your safe place. Like a homing pigeon you go there every time you want to or need to. It is always waiting for you.

So, do people bring us joy and happiness? Yes, in a way they do because they allow us to shine and to be ourselves. We feel loved and we love. Please remember though, joy is always within us. We have an unlimited potential to feel happy.

There are a lot of unhappy people in the world, and you might wonder if they feel any joy. I believe they have the same potential within them; they just never stop long enough to remove all the negativity and toxic beliefs they have accumulated. But let’s not judge whether they are right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. The longer the burden of unhappiness is carried, the heavier it gets, and the faster joy and happiness will continue to fade. But they never disappear and remain always within.

Wishing you a great journey to your happy place?

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Noise

151101-digs10-3.jpgWe live in a time when it is difficult to get away from outside noise. Between our beeping, chirping and ringing cell phones, televisions, ear phones to listen to music, audio books or anything we like, playing games on our iPads enhanced with music and other sounds – just to name a few – there are very few moments of silence, if any. We are so used to it, that it has become part of life, and we may hardly notice it any longer. Living in Saddlebrooke, the evenings and nights are very quiet. I find it so peaceful sitting under the stars and feeling that I am one with the universe. From time to time the coyotes give thanks for a good meal, and although I know that sadly another animal has given its life, I accept that it is nature. The crackling of the fireplace is soothing, and I feel stress pouring out of me and my mind becoming quiet.

And then we have the inner noise of our mind, a constant, non-ending chatter.  Thoughts come and go, mental dialogues with others are conducted, and outside stimuli are evaluated and digested. Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, and carrying on endlessly. He taught, “Just as a monkey swings through the trees grabbing one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night”. There are many monkeys in our minds, fear being an especially noisy and persistent one. It constantly sounds an alarm and points out dangers, real or imagined. Does this sound familiar to you and how can you quiet these monkeys?

Meditation is a great way to bring peace and silence, and it helps to balance the mind and the body. It is difficult and nearly impossible to directly fight the monkeys or control the noise around us. But one effective way is taking time out of every day for meditation. Find a quiet place and a comfortable position, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing. When a thought appears, don’t fight it, because pushing against it makes the thought stronger. Just watch it and let it float away. With time it becomes easier, and one can stay longer in the meditative state. It is worth the effort and the benefits far outweigh the time spent, which we might think we are short of.

One might consider running away from civilization and sitting on a mountaintop to find peace and tranquility. Indeed, you would be away from the outside noise, but you would have brought your monkey mind with you. A better way is to create quiet times in our lives, silent moments which bring peace and joy. We can look at it like a daily spa visit, allowing mind and body to relax and rejuvenate. Meditation brings us to a special place where we can find the strength and ability to better navigate the noisy world we live in.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

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