Seven Zen Stories That Could Open Your Mind

For centuries, Zen masters have used stories and koans, or paradoxical riddles, to help students realize their true nature. These stories are often puzzling and may seem nonsensical, but ponder them yourself and you might emerge wiser and more self-aware. Here are seven of our favorite Zen stories.

Source: Seven Zen Stories That Could Open Your Mind

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Your brain IS capable of producing new cells through neurogenesis; here are FIVE ways to improve cognition

Saturday, August 08, 2015 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer

 

(NaturalNews) Prior to about 20 years ago, it was believed that the human brain was incapable of producing new brain cells after reaching maturity. But scientists now widely accept the fact that the human brain canundergo neurogenesis, in which new neurons are born, even into adulthood, and that this process can be helped along through certain dietary and lifestyle changes.

Two specific regions of the brain, the subventricular zone and the hippocampus, both show evidence of neurogenesis post-maturity. The latter region is responsible for learning and memory, and when it’s not functioning as it should, neurodegenerative conditions like depression, anxiety and Parkinson’s can ensue. But you can help reduce your risk while simultaneously promoting adult-stage brain cell formation by following these five steps:

1) Exercise. It might sound cliche, but the single most effective way to promote neurogenesis in your brain is to exercise regularly. Getting your heart pumping and your blood flowing by running, biking, or swimming is a great way to increase levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glial cell line-derived trophic factor (GDNF), two key growth factors that promote neurogenesis.

The endorphins released through cardiovascular exercise also help minimize levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, while increasing levels of the hormone testosterone, which like BDNF and GDNF helps promote neurogenesis. These exercise-induced hormones and growth factors are especially critical as a person ages, since they act as anti-aging, cognition-boosting nutrients.

2) Meditation. The scientific benefits of meditation are well-established, and you don’t necessarily have to be religious to derive benefits from it. A growing body of evidence suggests that meditation can help increase the gray matter density of various regions of the brain, including the hippocampus.

By helping individuals to focus more on the now rather than the past and future, meditation clears the mind and helps balance brain chemicals, including those that regulate neurogenesis. At least one study determined that meditation helps activate certain integrative functions in the brain, promoting both short- and long-term neural changes.

Night meditation can also help up-regulate the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep hormone directly linked to neurogenesis. Amishi Jha from the University of Miami recommends “mindfulness-based mind-fitness training,” a method that involves focusing on a specific object, such as a particular body sensation, in order to improve brain structure and function, and ultimately one’s intelligence.

3) Diet. Eating right might seem obvious, but many people still don’t know what this means. Your brain is made up of about 60 percent fat, which necessitates that fat plays an important role in everyday nutrition. But many people still view fat as bad, seeking to avoid it in favor of fat-free or low-fat food options packed with chemical sweeteners and other artificial flavor additives.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important fat to consume regularly for improved brain health, as are healthy saturated fats like coconut and palm oil. Docosahexaenoic acid in particular is a critical fat component that, as it pertains to neurogenesis, is absolutely necessary forthe brain to manufacture new brain cells.

4) Sleep, sunlight and sex. It doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves, but sleep is critical for healthy brain function. Sleep deprivation, it turns out, reduces hippocampal neurogenesis, throwing hormone balance out of whack and cluttering the brain. A recent study published in the journal Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences found that sleep disruptions exceeding 24 hours inhibit cell proliferation, and in some cases neurogenesis.

Natural exposure to sunlight is another factor in neurogenesis, as vitamin D, which is produced when unblocked skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, increases levels of both serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter) and GDNF expression in the brain. Optimal exposure to beneficial ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun ranges between 10 and 15 minutes during the summer months.

And then there’s sex, which helps reduce stress while boosting levels of certain “feel-good” transmitters in the brain. A 2010 study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that sex helps minimize both anxiety and corticosterone levels while promoting adult neurogenesis and stimulating the growth of dendritic spines and architecture in the hippocampus.

5) Psilocybin and cannabis. Various psychoactive compounds, including those found in “magic” mushrooms (psilocybin) and cannabis (THC and CBD), have also been shown to aid in the development of new brain cells. Psilocybin, it turns out, both increases hippocampal neurogenesis and increases the ability of the brain to “unlearn” certain negative fear responses, hence why sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often report benefits from supplementing with psilocybin.

And cannabis, which is increasingly legal throughout the U.S., possesses compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that match with receptors in the brains to reduce anxiety and promote neurogenesis. High Existence has published a more thorough listing of beneficial psychoactive compounds that can aid in promoting brain cell growth, which you can access here: highexistence.com

Sources for this article include:

highexistence.com

highexistence.com

pnas.org

newsweek.com

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

journals.plos.org

via Your brain IS capable of producing new cells through neurogenesis; here are FIVE ways to improve cognition – NaturalNews.com.

Why Meditation Should Be Part Of Your Beauty Regimen

BY ANNIE YATES 

MARCH 15, 2015 5:35 AM EDT

So much modern skin care comes from a bottle or jar, and advertisements make health and beauty look complicated, leading us to believe that we need a chemicals and secret formulas to remain attractive and young.

But there’s a lot more to skin and nail care than anti-wrinkle creams and miracle serums — it’s important to consider not only what we put in and on our bodies, but also how our thoughts and emotions affect the way we look.

Sure, we all like simple solutions to fix problems, quite often ignoring the cause. For example, stress isn’t just a mental state. It takes a toll on our appearance, with our skin becoming dry and pale, and the tension in our muscles can make our faces appear lined and wrinkled. To compound this, we often neglect ourselves when we feel stressed and rundown, leading to a less-than-ideal diet. We indulge in sugar, caffeine and alcohol, all of which can affect skin cell hydration and make our skin look dull and dry.

Together with a good diet and exercise, regular meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and give ourselves time to breathe and gain perspective. Try introducing meditation to your beauty regimen with this simple daily practice that easily fits into your schedule.

As with all natural beauty, I always encourage people to be realistic when it comes to results. Nothing pure and natural is a quick fix — there are no miracle creams or meditations with dramatic results. Rather, that improvements will be seen over time as your wellbeing improves.

Before you start …

  • Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing. Anything tight and restrictive may draw attention from the moment.
  • Choose a comfortable seat. I recommend sitting upright in a comfortable chair with your back supported. When I’m feeling under the weather, I sometimes choose to lie flat on my back.
  • I often like to perform alternate nostril breathing a few minutes before starting my meditation.

A Simple Meditation For Natural Beauty

Close your eyes and mouth, breathing normally or taking a few deep breaths through your nose. Bring your awareness to your breath and focus on inhaling and exhaling. Try to take you mind away from your thoughts and focus on your breathing. In and out.As thoughts pop into your head, acknowledge them, then brush them aside. This will continue to happen, but it’s important that you quickly shift your focus back to the meditation. This gets easier the more you practice.Aim to practice this mediation every day for 10-15 minutes. It may be useful to meditate more often during times of stress.The benefits of regular simple mediation … 

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreased anxiety and stress levels
  • Increased happiness and energy levels
  • Improved immune system
  • Better sleep

… and these in turn will have numerous beauty benefits!

Why Meditation Should Be Part Of Your Beauty Regimen.

How To Boost Your Mood In 20 Seconds Or Less

BY GABRIELLE BERNSTEIN

MARCH 18, 2014 3:50 AM EDT

Sometimes the simplest way to drop the “baditude” and bring on the happiness can come through an everyday action. Certain actions activate oxytocin, aka “the love hormone,” which is known to induce feelings of love, trust, and a sense of bonding. When you’re feeling funky, oxytocin can turn your mood around, make you feel more connected and revive your overall energy.

There are a few natural ways to rev up the oxytocin engine when you’ve got the blues. These great tips can be applied anywhere, anytime. Take a minute for a miracle and let the love hormone lead the way.

The first tip is to place your hand on your heart. By putting your own hand on your heart, you stimulate the love hormone, which sends out the inner signal that it’s safe to calm down.

Once you place your hand onto your heart, breathe into it. As you breathe into your heart, imagine feelings of love, compassion and ease passing over you. Proactively collaborate in your healing by breathing into your heart. This exercise will stimulate the flow of oxytocin. Then stress will subside and peace will set in.

Another great way to stimulate oxytocin is to give someone a 20-second hug. Yup it’s that simple. Just give someone you love a little squeeze. Make sure the hug is reciprocated.

It’s important that the gesture ignite a sense of connection, which will in turn stimulate oxytocin. Hug your lover, your best friend, or even your pet. The sweet connection between two beings can totally change your mood.

My last suggestion is to flaunt your pearly whites and smile at someone. A genuine, heartfelt smile can connect you to a complete stranger. Smile at people you know and feel free to smile at strangers. Just express authentic, heart-centered grace through the generous gesture of a smile. In an instant, you’ll feel love rush in.

Love doesn’t have to come from a romantic partner or a child. Love can come from any form of authentic connection. Take time in your life to create those connections and trust that you’re not serving yourself but you’re also spreading the love.

Excerpt from Gabrielle’s new book, Miracles Now.

via How To Boost Your Mood In 20 Seconds Or Less.