Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Power of Words

By Daisaku Ikeda

I have vivid memories of encounters with people whose voices or words have moved me over the years. One which springs to mind happened during a visit to the Guilin region of China, a beautiful land of craggy mountains, mists and rivers.

Walking along, we met two young girls, no older than 15 or 16, selling medicinal herbs near a river. They carried a large basket filled with herbs, inviting passersby to buy their goods with vibrant voices.

“Ni hao!” [Hello] I called to them. “Ni hao!” They smiled back: “We offer every kind of medicine: choose the one you want.”

I smiled at their high spirits and asked, “Do you have anything to make me smarter?” They seemed taken aback, but only for an instant. “I’m sorry,” one of them replied in a clear, firm voice, “We just sold out of that one.”

Our group burst into laughter at this witty reply, and we felt as warm inside as if a gentle spring breeze had touched us. As a Chinese saying puts it, “Even a single word uttered out of goodness can warm the heart in the bitterest winter.”

I fondly recall that my wife and I ended up buying some herbs as souvenirs, and I sometimes wonder how the girls and their families are doing.

I believe that sincere one-to-one conversation can soften and melt even hearts that are completely frozen. By talking with someone face-to-face, you can actually change that person’s life and your own.

Today we live in the midst of a flood of soulless information. And the more we rely on one-way communication, like radio or TV, or static and unmoving words in print, the more I feel the need to stress the value of the sound of the human voice: The simple but precious interaction of voice and voice, person and person; the exchange of life with life.

In a face-to-face conversation, the listener can ask questions or disagree, and this in turn may make the speaker rethink his or her own views. The process is dynamic and multifaceted, creating mutual joy and understanding.

For myself, I love talking with a wide range of people from all over the world. I always learn something new and I find it inspiring to be exposed to different ways of thinking.  This is a kind of spiritual nutrition for me.

My experience is that no matter how strong the initial uncertainty, or even hostility another person may feel toward you, if you approach them with complete sincerity and speak the truth, they will invariably respond in kind.

Face-to-face conversation may seem like something very ordinary, but it is in fact the most powerful tool for positive change we possess. We can exchange ideas on a very human, personal level, with a basis of respect and faith in each other’s essential goodness. Everyone involved is equal; there is neither superior or inferior.

The French thinker Montaigne loved discussion, and he always kept an open mind, saying,  “No proposition astounds me, no belief offends me, however much opposed it may be to my own. Contradictions of opinion only arouse and exercise my mind.” To him, dialogue was the search for truth, and he claimed that he welcomed and embraced the truth, in whoever’s hands he found it.

As we have two ears and one mouth, maybe we should listen twice as much as we speak. Certainly if we are self-righteous or prejudiced, no one will approach us with an open heart.

Sometimes our attempts to start a discussion or talk things over may be slighted or ignored. Then we should remember that rejection and disappointment are inevitable in life, and just keep on trying. Maintaining dialogue takes great patience and perseverance. We need to develop a strong sense of self, so that although we can clearly see the emotions of the other person, we keep on calmly and steadily “rowing” closer to their heart.

The biggest obstacle to successful dialogue is usually excessive attachment to one’s own point of view. For instance, a rift between a parent and child will not be easily healed as long as the parent only sees things as a parent, and the child only from his or her own viewpoint.

In a genuine discussion, it is best if we can see any confrontations that arise as just another form of our connectedness. If both parent and child can see themselves as sharing common ground—making up a family together—things can take a surprisingly easy turn for the better. The deeper the common feeling that binds us, the more we can embrace those who differ from us and ensure that dialogue will lead to a fruitful outcome.

Whether the problem is that of a single family, or international in scope, if those involved can view things from a higher perspective, with a sense of shared purpose, the gears of dialogue will always start to turn in a positive direction.

If more people were to pursue dialogue in an equally broad-minded and persistent manner, I am sure that the inevitable conflicts of human life would find easier resolution.  Prejudice would give way to understanding, and war to peace. Genuine dialogue results in the transformation of opposing viewpoints, changing them from wedges that drive people apart into bridges that link them together.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Sōka Gakkai International (SGI), a Nichiren Buddhist lay association with more than 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, and recognized by the United Nations as a nongovernmental organization for its activities promoting nuclear disarmament and human security.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

If you want to be free - Annekei

If you Wanna Be Free by Annekei

Video Produced by SGI-USA
Featuring members of the Future Division

If you Wanna be Free

What're you crying for lady
can't you see you got the world right on the floor
maybe you just have to turn your head so you can see
and then turn those dreams into a vast reality
it is easier said than done, but it is possible
You worked so hard your whole life on putting up the walls
now it's time to tear them down, one by one
what makes you think you need something or someone
when all it takes is you, and...

If you wanna be free
free from worries
if you wanna be free
summon up the courage

What is going on with me?
I can't seem to see my path that very clearly
wondering when will all the efforts start to show
all the causes and the seeds I plant, when will they grow?
it is easier said than done, but it's your destiny
You've chosen not to follow blindly through their lottery
You've chosen to take a stand and face the enemy
there is no easy way to see through all the glory
and float into the light

If you wanna be free
free from worries
if you wanna be free
summon up the courage

There is no way I'd rather spend my time than tryin' to guide you through this phase
that's because I know it is the only way for you to fully grasp your grace

SGI is an organization of engaged Buddhist practicing the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism which teaches that each person has the vast inner resources of courage, wisdom, and compassion to overcome any of life's difficulties.

The Moneyless Man

That we need money to live – like it or not – is a self-evident truism. Right? Not anymore.

Drawing on almost three years of experience as The Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle not only demystifies money and the system that binds us to it, he also explains how liberating, easy and enjoyable it is to live with less of it.

In this book, Mark takes us on an exploration that goes deeper into the thinking that pushed him to make the decision to go moneyless, and the philosophy he developed along the way. Bursting with radical new perspectives on some of the vital, yet often unquestioned, pillars of economic theory and what it really means to be ‘sustainable’ – as well as creative and practical solutions for how we can live more with less – Boyle offers us one of the world’s most thought-provoking voices on economic and ecological ideas.

Mark’s original, witty style will help simplify and diversify your personal economy, freeing you from the invisible ties that limit you and making you more resilient to financial shocks.

The Moneyless Manifesto explores why making the transition beyond monetary economics is becoming the zeitgeist of the Occupy generation, and how you can participate in the world’s only booming economy – the gift economy.

Mark Boyle has lived completely without money in England for two and a half years, an experience which formed the basis for his first book, The Moneyless Man. He is also the founder of Freeconomy, an alternative economy with local groups across 171 countries.

Mark BoyleHe holds a degree in Business and for most of his professional career was involved in the management of organic food companies.

He gives talks internationally (but doesn’t fly which makes it difficult for him to go very far very often!) and writes intermittently for various international newspapers and magazines, such as the Guardian and Permaculture Magazine.

He is currently in the process of creating a fully localised, land-based gift economy in Éire which will demonstrate how all the ideas and practical solutions described in The Moneyless Manifesto can be integrated into one holistic system design.

Find out more about Mark :

Follow Mark on Facebook:

The Moneyless Manifesto
Get a copy of his book

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Monday, 7 October 2013

The conscious guide to meditation.


‘A Daily practice of Meditation can Transform a Life’

There is a pandemic of thinking in Western Society.   If there is one complaint that I hear more than any other when clients approach me for coaching or to learn meditation, it is that they are physically unable to find any respite from mental activity or thought.  Even when sleeping, the brain is in overdrive and the client is, unsurprisingly, in overwhelm.

Meditation is commonly prescribed as an antidote to the stress caused by this inability to stop thinking and to become quiet within our own being.  However, whilst many clients try to meditate, they quickly give up because of a simple mistake – they think something incredible is going to ‘happen’ almost immediately.  They also expect to reach stage 2 (the expansive discovery state) without going through stage 1 (the boring mind-bilge wait-out)…and as they weren’t expecting stage 1 to be so hard and so dull, they often give up within a week or less.  By managing expectations and preparing for the difficulties, meditation can become part of your daily routine with minimal fuss.

Stop Doing : Be

The first thing to get past is any expectation that something is going to ‘happen’ because you are ‘doing’ something different.  The thing to bear in mind is that the ‘happening’ that you are after is exactly that which you couldn’t stop if you wanted to.  The ‘happening’ you are looking for is simply the natural state of you.  At its heart, meditation is not about ‘doing’ anything, it is about noticing something that is already ‘happening’, whether you intend it or not.

Now, if meditation is just sitting still and noticing something that is already happening, why is it that we find it so challenging?  What is the tricky bit?

Well, apart from our hesitation in making a commitment to set aside time in our hectic lives, the tricky bit is letting all the stuff which isn’t quite so natural simmer down for long enough that we actually get a good whiff of what has been happening all along…ie the self.   YOU.  You have been happening all along – and by that I mean humming along in quite an incredible way.

This pure place of ‘being’ which we will speak more of later, is the foundation of all meditation.

Learning to Meditate the Conscious Way

I like to teach meditation in 2 stages.

Stage 1 – Welcoming Silence.
Stage 2 – Discovery.

Stage 1 is the most difficult and the least interesting, it is where most meditators dabble and then give up.  It is a practice of simply allowing the mind to become silent through witnessing.  The second stage is only available once stage 1 has been achieved.  Stage 2 is the gift.  It is far more exciting and expansive.  The possibilities for discovery in stage 2 are limitless but include self-exploration, contemplation and opening to wisdom.

Stage 1: How To Meditate – Welcoming Stillness

Stop whatever it is that you are doing.  Turn anything that pings or buzzes off.  Gift yourself 5 or 10 minutes of unadulterated technological disconnection.  Find a comfy place to sit.  It doesn’t matter if it is on the floor, on a cushion or on a chair.

Ok, so there’s you.  You are now seated and comfortable.  Your spine should be erect and tall, your body centred and relaxed, without being on the edge of a snooze.

Body Awareness

Close your eyes and just notice yourself.  Using your focus, feel through the body.  Take your focus into an arm and simply listen and discover.  How does it feel?  Is it comfortable?  What are the characteristics of that arm being alive? Feel for temperature, movement, sensations of being.  Move through other parts of the body at random.  Check in.  Listen.  Feel.  ‘Be’ in your body.

Are certain parts of your body calling for your attention?  An itch, a scratch?  A shift of body weight?  Pay attention and attend to the body’s needs until the body is quietly resting at peace.

Breath Awareness

Now bring the attention to the breath.  Count 10 breaths in and 10 breaths out then let the counting stop but the breathing continue.   With your focus follow the breath into the body and follow it out again.  Notice that there is an exchange going on inside of you.  Witness the life that flows in and out and all around you.

Notice that your breath is both voluntary and involuntary.  You can slow the breath, pause the breath but you cannot stop it.  Your breath (your life) is a beautiful and effortless collaboration with the Universe.

Emotional Awareness

Now listen to your emotions.  What do you feel right now?  Attend to each emotion with welcoming compassion.  Don’t bring any meaning to the emotions, simply acknowledge them and witness them neutrally.  Allow each emotion a place within your being to rest and expand. Whether you would characterise your emotions as positive or negative, just for now, allow each to feel equally at home within your body.

Thought Awareness

Whilst this is all happening you should be experiencing the mind chattering away.  The chatter will be about all sorts of useless information.  The mind will be shouting for your attention justifying its importance with time-keeping reminders and bilge.  Just watch or listen to the chatter.

Remember this: YOU are the awareness of this chatter.  The chatter is NOT you.  So observe it.  Remark to yourself, ‘This chatter is quite a peculiar happening.  It is coasting along without me.  I will sit calmly here and watch it, and see where it goes.’

The one thing not to do here is to give any energy to any particular thought that travels through.  Simply let them come and go.  Know that if there was a useful reminder about something important that it will still be available to you in 5 minutes time when you come out of your practice.


With repetition of this exercise and time, the chatter will give way to growing periods of silence or stillness as the mind releases its grip on the internal window and gains confidence to be without content for longer periods.  This silence is intensely nourishing for the soul.  Meditating for 10 minutes where 9 minutes are spent watching the chatter and 1 minute is spent witnessing the silence is a great achievement.

Even if you don’t find silence on your first attempts (and you probably will not) acknowledge your commitment and your intention.  Keep the attitude clean and positive.  Every time you are sitting down to practice, you are closer to finding the silence.  Every step is crucial for the journey.

Once you can reach the point of silence or emptiness and maintain it for a few minutes, you are ready to move on to stage 2.   You have become the neutral witness of your thoughts.  You have learned through experience that you and your thoughts are separate.  You now know yourself to be the awareness in which thought arises.

This is a huge lesson.  It changes everything.

Neil leads a beginner meditation class on Monday evenings at The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1PL. 6.30-7.30pm.  All are welcome.  £10.

Further info: 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mind Valley Academy - One mind at a time.

I am very excited to share this with you.

Firstly, I am sharing this because technology inspires me with hope for our future and secondly because Vishen's vision for the future is completely aligned with all my beliefs and my own vision for humanity.

Our world and societies will change and shift when more people have access to wisdom and the potential to become happy. Happy people do not kill each other, happy people do not bomb each other. 

I stand by Vishen when he says that we must empower people.

All this works in perfect harmony with my teacher Daisaku Ikeda the president of the Buddhist organisation I am a member of the Sokka Gakkai International (See for more information) of whom I have immense gratitude, for he is the one who gave me the opportunity to practice this Buddhism, as well as be a part of this great movement of people. Without him, it would have never reached my country.

The Sokka Gakkai is a movement of peace, education and culture, for the betterment and happiness of all of humanity.

MindValley's platform is an exciting beginning for something incredible. I really cant wait to see what Vishen creates.

He has created him self a very bold and brave vision, but as they say fortune favours the brave and I am 10 000% behind him.

Have a look at his organisation, and how they are planning to fill the gap in education, in helping people find real happiness and fulfilment.

Mind Valley Team

Introducing Mind Valley

We’re an international group of 100+ individuals from 30+ countries led by Founder & CEO Vishen Lakhiani, doing our part to change the world.

From outdated societal beliefs and education models that hold people back to restrictive work cultures that hinder creativity and innovation–we at Mindvalley are ambitiously, ridiculously, and irreverently determined to help change all of that to help explode our full human potential and move the planet forward.

While many look at global problems like brain drain and broken educational systems and focus their time and energy fixing the problem, we take a different approach.

How? By embodying the philosophy of the great scientist and awesome futurist, Buckminster Fuller who once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Building new better models that make today’s problematic models obsolete, and at the heart of our approach is “culture hacking.

What is Culture Hacking?

cul·ture [kuhl-cher] noun, verb,

The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

A particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
Development or improvement of the mind by education or training.
The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture.

hack, verb
To cut to the core. To dismantle systems apart. To rebuild. To recode.
Thus, “culture hacking” is the art of bringing in technology and education in smart effective ways to rapidly “recode” and advance culture, altering in the process the behaviors of everyday individuals to make them adopt smarter practices that elevate their lives.
And so far, the results have been phenomenal.

Making the world a better place by touching 1 billion lives by 2050.

Learn more about MindValley here:

Mindvalley was founded by Vishen Lakhiani, a computer engineer who developed a fascination with the human mind. Vishen is driven by 3 things: hacking the global education system by spreading enlightened ideas, creating entrepreneurs who push the human race forward and contributing $1 billion to charitable causes via the Mindvalley Foundation in his lifetime. More on Vishen here.


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