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There is something about the country of Tibet that has always intrigued me. Perhaps it's the beautiful landscape along crystal blue waters or the unique architecture of its oriental style buildings. Or more importantly a group of monks that call this country their home are known for their serene way of life. They seem unaffected by the modern day stresses and anger that the rest of us are subjected to while residing primarily in a state of bliss. What is the secret to their joy? Researchers conducted a study of Tibetan monks and found that there are seven rituals that increase their levels of happiness an astonishing 700-800% over the average person.
1. Being Mindful: For many of us, the stressors of our daily lives are a lot to deal with. We're often multitasking or thinking ahead as to what we need to take care of next. We are so consumed with the vast amount of tasks we are responsible to complete in the course of the day, as well as what faces us tomorrow and in our future, that we fail to be fully present to what is happening in the moment. The old cliché, "stop and smell the roses" is a great reminder of being mindful. Be aware of all that is around you and you will discover undiscovered beauty that can greatly enhance your day. Take time to gaze out of a window at the earth and sky around you; take notice of the color, texture, and aroma of the food you are eating; sit quietly as you watch with deep intent your child coloring a picture.
2. Oneness: Tibetan monks practice the belief of "oneness", that we are all interconnected. The same energy that is me is also that which all others are comprised of. An activity called "compassion meditation" increases happiness and empathy by as much as 800%. Remembering that we all share the same basic needs, feelings, desires, and fears enables us to be less judgmental and more empathetic to the feelings and suffering of others. The desire to see others safe and happy and prosperous magnifies our own feelings of joy as well.
3. Laughing Out Loud: For 5,000 years, Tibetan monks have begun each day by laughing out loud upon awakening. It enables them to remain calmer and more focused. It is well documented that laughter has medicinal benefits by reducing the production of stress hormones while triggering the release of happiness-boosting endorphins. It also reduces tension in the blood vessels of the head, thus improving the flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain, keeping them alert. Faking a laugh can have the same benefits as laughter caused by a funny incident of joke. Recommended daily dose? A lot.
4. Sitting Up Straight: Good posture has multiple benefits. Consider this: all of the body's nerves flow through the spine. Any interference can lead to reduction in brain function. Simply pulling one's shoulders back can increase the electrical current to the brain. And the more efficiently the brain functions the less stress it endures. Less stress = greater happiness.
5. Gazing At One Object: I've always had the ability to "out-stare" anyone. I could affix my eyes on an object and stare at it without blinking for a long time. Tibetan monks meditate on a sole object. Studies show that doing so activates the frontal lobes of the brain, areas associated with superior concentration and faster reaction time. The greater our ability to concentrate the less effort we put forth in doing so. This enables us to feel more relaxed. And the beauty of this exercise is that it can be done anywhere for a short period of time to reap the benefits. Standing in line at the supermarket provides a perfect time for a mini one-point meditation.
6. Listening to Bells: The monks of Tibet begin and end prayer with the sound of small brass discs attached by string, called tingsha. Each disc is handmade so no two are identical. This causes each to vibrate at a slightly different frequency when struck. Studies show that when your brain hears two different frequencies it registers a frequency equal to the difference between the two. This sound refreshes both the body and the mind and is associated with both relaxation and heightened creativity.
7. Humming: Many cultures utilize chants or humming as a way to relax and focus. I recall listening to the Gregorian Chants sung by Catholic monks when I was a child. I always found them to be very soothing and comforting. But even the act of simply humming can increase your brainpower, boost endorphins, and lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Humming vibrates the hypothalamus and pituitary glands deep inside the brain, releasing feel-good hormones and disengaging the fight-or-flight response when one is stressed or fearful. Using a vowel sound such as 'ah' or 'oh' and lowering the sound to a place where you can feel the vibration throughout your entire body. I've used the sound “OM”. The mantra “OM” is the name of God, the very vibration of the Supreme Being. OM is the reflection of the absolute reality, without beginning or the end and embracing all that exists. It's an excellent tool to reduce stress and induce joy and tranquility.
Monks, whether Tibetan, Catholic or any other faith, are globally recognized as authorities in tranquility and joy. Choose one or more of the above mentioned practices and incorporate it into your daily routine. Then take notice of how much happier and more relaxed you are. Here's to your bliss.
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