Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How God Changes Your Brain~ Teaser Tuesday

Hosted by MizB at shouldbereading.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,
*Open to a random page,
*Share a few “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,
*Please no spoilers!
*Share the title and author.

Today's selection is from 'How God Changes Your Brain' by Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman. P. 48.

"In the summer of 1999, I had the opportunity to study a group of nuns who had been practicing the Centering Prayer for a minimum of fifteen years. This was the first brain-scan study of Christian contemplative practitioners, and we discovered that the neurological changes were significant and very different from how the human brain normally functions. Even more surprising, the neurological changes were nearly the same as those we recorded from a group of Buddhist practitioners, who obviously  nurtured very different beliefs. This evidence confirmed our hypothesis that the benefits gleaned from prayer and meditation may have less to do with a specific theology than with the ritual techniques of breathing, staying relaxed, and focusing one's attention upon a concept that evokes comfort, compassion, or a spiritual sense of peace. Of course, the more you believe in what you are meditating or praying about, the stronger the response will be." 

A fascinating look at the effects of meditation (and prayer) on the neurological aspects of the brain. While I have recommended meditation to family and friends, I find that people either don't understand the benefits to themselves (of which there are a myriad of variations that last far beyond the time spent sitting) or they are terrified of time alone and/or what they will find inside. What a very different world it would be if everyone took a few minutes every day to slow down, go inside and feel a little peace on a regular basis.

From the back cover:
"* Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process. (From page 62: 'Another important study...also showed that meditation enhanced the brain's thickness and neuroplasticity. Normally when we age, our cerebral cortex thins.')
* Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love. 
* Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
* Intense prayer and meditation lastingly change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bountiful Wishes!

Since they are now saying (as I've always said)
that gratitude is good for mind, body and soul,
Giving thanks here for:

*the many spectacular friends and family in my life,
*a wonderful and generous partner who shares my everyday world,
*the many true blessings I've been bestowed
*the gift of past, present and future
*the colors of each season
*and you!

What are you thankful for?

Wishing all of you a most bountiful Thanksgiving! 

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wooded Bliss~Missing Paris Day

 Had to share a few more photos of the ancient buildings
of Bar le Duc. 

It's no secret that I love doors and windows...

and especially the wooded doors and ceilings of medieval times.
And there's no shortage of them here. 
Look at what this window revealed.
 The dining room where I will be a guest on this next trip to Bar le Duc
has a similar ceiling only with a luscious, deep turquoise shade between the beams. 
Wonder what's for lunch in this room today? 
Maybe a little wild boar stuffed with the champignons of the Lorraine area
and a piece of this sweetness with a dark cafe creme. 

And yes, I was teased and giggled at for taking this photo.
The woman behind the counter couldn't understand why I would want a shot of it.
My photography companion tried to explain with a shrug of her shoulders:  "C'est different." 

I've been told that Bar le Duc has some of the oldest buildings in the area
and this Monument Historique sign gives you an idea of just how old.

And then there's my favorite: the timbered-house. 
I never tire of gazing at this style. 
There are a couple in Paris I'll have to find on this visit and share with you.
I only found them recently though they stand just around the corner from a place I've walked by 
over and over throughout the years. 
One of the things I love about Paris!
Bon Lundi toute la monde! 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 14, 2011

One-time Residence of the Duc de Bar~ Missing Paris Day

Always when we travel to Paris,
we visit family in Bar le Duc,
a small town in the Meuse Departement of Lorraine
about 3 hours east of Paris. 

When I came to the Old Town section for the first time twenty years ago,
I took a similar photo of this window 
which was just as dressed up as you see it now
(though the valences portrayed the flowers of summer). 

I love the lavender wreath
and matching pots and boughs.

Many of the houses of the old town 
date back from the 15th to 17th centuries.
And on my last visit, I pointed and clicked 
at houses, doors and windows from all directions... 

...and traversed the many old walkways
that still resemble the days of the Dukes. 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Full (Hunter's/Sanguine) Moon and 11/11/11

Pinned Image
~Image via Pinterest

The full moon of November is known as the Hunter's Moon (also called the Sanguine or Blood Moon) mainly because it gives plenty of evening light during hunting season. And the hunters of our family in France are already catching rabbits for our visit. The Little Unfortunates are typically served in a sauce of their own blood (not my favorite but it makes the hunters happy) and one must chew carefully in preparation for the inevitable buckshot. Actually my favorite rabbit in France was made by our butcher, just next door at the bottom of our stairs, simply baked lined with moutarde and jambon. It is endlessly interesting to return to a country that still handles much of its food straight from the farm or field. The open-air markets dangle animal parts for sale or offer live versions in cages. The fresher the better. After a huge lunch in the country, we walk in the forest for the express purposes of aiding digestion and spreading feed for the wild boar.

Tonight the moon illuminates the skies and the hunter's vision and tomorrow, the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, the numbers 11/11/11 are all about illumination, transformation and enlightenment. Some see it as a time of peace. The fighting of World War I officially ended at 11:00 on November 11th in 1918 (the war itself ended the following June but the fighting ceased on this day). Some believe it's a time portal. Some see it as good luck and will spend 11/11/11 this year buying lottery tickets.  Gamblers will try their luck and others will tie the knot, hoping for an auspicious marriage beginning. A pair of twins will celebrate their 11th birthday with 11 candles in buttercream number 11. Those dedicated to peace and transformation will meditate on transmissions of light and inner awareness.

And for you, I'm wishing all of these good things: peace, illumination, auspiciousness and good hunting.
And if 11/11/11 is indeed a portal, happy travels!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parisian Christmas~Missing Paris Day

Happy Monday everyone! 
The world (and winter) are looking better recently
as we booked our tickets to Paris for Christmas. 

A gift in itself-
there are so many things I am grateful for:

* Strolling the Paris streets
* Time with family and friends
* Foods of a particular (French) flavor
* Sounds of the most romantic of the romance languages
* History, history and history
* The double kissy- face
* Hot cafe drinks
 * Photo walks
* Foie Gras!!

What do you love most about Paris?
(Or wish to see most?)

(photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)