When Was The Last Time You Offered Your Time For Free?

I love this story that I originally heard from Jack Kornfield. It is a heart warming, thought provoking reminder to give a little more. 

The Tire Iron and the Tamale
Published: March 4, 2011
During a roadside breakdown, who didn’t stop, and who did.

During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket,” which I actually said.

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off. Damn.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.”

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.


Justin Horner is a graphic designer living in Portland, Ore. This essay was adapted from a message-board posting on reddit.com.


How To Bring a Meditation Practice To Your Work

According to Project-Meditation.org, “Meditation at work has been proven to lower stress levels and meditation at work has also been proven to increase productivity and harmony in the work force.” Some companies who see the benefits of meditation have instituted mandatory workday meditations. For example, a chemical company in Detroit implemented a workday meditation program and, after a three-year study, found that absenteeism fell 85%, productivity grew 120%, injuries were reduced by 70%, and profits grew by 520%.

If you've never tried meditating at work, follow some of these suggestions and give it a chance. First of all, by law you are entitled two official breaks during the workday. If you have been skating through these breaks like so many do, make them official now. Find a quiet, undisturbed corner (even if this means a bathroom stall or sitting out in your car) and understand that your work meditation may not be as deep, quiet, and peaceful as a home meditation—but it will still provide some benefit. If you have even just one other colleague who'd like to join you in meditating, this is great and can add to the experience. If possible, gather a small group and stake out a conference room or other suitable area for a group meditation. The energy of a group meditation can easily help you overcome some of the workplace distractions that may be present.

If you find that quiet and solitude elude you, try one of the zen meditation practices of staring softly at a neutral/blank surface, such as a plain white wall or the ground at your feet. Again, be patient and remember that your workplace meditation may not be as great as your home meditation, but it can still be beneficial. Another tip is to put a guided meditation MP3 on your iPod. Bring some headphones or ear buds and use this low-maintenance meditation technique to get you started. If you are lucky enough to have your own office, put up a “Meditation in Progress” sign if you think it'll help ward off distractions.

If you want to try implementing a meditation practice for the entire workplace (if you are a supervisor, manager, or owner), gather some data on the benefits of meditation. There is even data out there on the specific benefits of workplace meditation. Share this information with your employees. Know that some people may be highly opposed to meditating as they think it's a form of mind control or will allow the devil a chance to take over their minds. Respect that and tell the nay-sayers they can use the 10-20 minutes of quiet time to pray, breathe deeply with their eyes closed, or visualize having a great day. Remember to be patient with the mixed crowd and truly teach them how to meditate. Talk to them about mindfulness, different techniques, breathing, posture, dealing with intrusive thoughts, and to practice at home if they like. Again, a guided meditation may be highly appropriate. Ensure that it is not too new-agey and falls into the “non-denominational” category. Don't make the meditation mantra solely about increasing work profits as that will definitely seem like mind control to the group. Focus instead on teamwork, cooperation, patience, tolerance, understanding, loving kindness, joy, purpose, unity, and peace.

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com







Do You Have Intrusive Thoughts When You Meditate?

Welcome to meditation! Evidence suggests that the conscious human mind is only able to hold onto one thought for a maximum of about 3 seconds. On the flip side, this explains why intrusive thoughts can be such an interruption during meditation. Of course, the whole point of meditation is to turn the ongoing, chattering voice in the head off for a few minutes. The ongoing dialogue in our minds is responsible for almost all of the anguish we experience—it makes us stressed, worried, anxious, angry, jealous, and even crazy.

Todo list

The general rule when meditating is if an unwanted or intrusive thought pops into your mind, simply acknowledge it and re-focus back on the meditation. While it can be frustrating for that song you heard last night to keep popping into your mind or to want to keep adding to the to-do list, allowing yourself to succumb to the frustration will only get you further and further away from the peace and serenity you are seeking through the meditation. Have the awareness that even if an intrusive thought arises, it will not ruin your meditation. It is something that happens to every meditator—let it go.

Another great way to stop the thinking mind during meditation is by focusing on being present. This is why breathing can be an essential tool for meditation. As you very consciously breathe in and out, focusing on this simple, life-affirming activity, your mind will be able to relax. Presence is about being here and now. That means the mind has not drifted off somewhere else (there) and is not obsessively worrying about upcoming events or painful past traumas (then). This is why Buddhist teacher Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now is an international best-seller. Being present, in the now, brings the peace and serenity sought through meditation simply by quieting the voice in the head.

Some prefer to ward off intrusive thoughts by repeating an affirmation or mantra as they meditate. You might think in your mind, focusing your energies on this, “I am unconditional love. I am open to love. I believe in love.” Perhaps you prefer, “I am relaxed. I am calm. I am free. I am patient.” By directing your energies towards a specific desired mantra, you can help keep your energies away from undesired thoughts.

If you experience intrusive thoughts that are violent or flashbacks of traumas you have endured, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a trained professional to help you work through these issues. Meditation may not be appropriate for you if you are experiencing flashbacks each time you try to close your eyes and relax.

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com


How Meditation Can Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever said something to your partner that you regret? Have you ever reacted to something your child said with anger that was really small and trivial? Have you ever wanted to be more patient in dealing with a behavior or situation with your partner? There are truly myriad reasons how meditation can help you improve your personal relationships.

RelationshipsMeditation brings a sense of calmness, peace, and tranquility. Think for a moment on how those gifts would benefit your relationships. It will help you to react in appropriate ways, rather than over-reacting. This means you can reduce or eliminate saying those things you regret. Calmness can mean there is less of a desire to nag and be consumed with unimportant “stuff.” These benefits can also provide a deeper tolerance and acceptance of one another. With that may mean more desire to sexually please the other or put more emphasis on foreplay. Perhaps greater tranquility will prompt you into being a better, more patient listener. As I said, the countless benefits abound!

Additionally, it is so often that the on-going dialogue in the mind spins out of control…Where is he? Why didn't she call me back? Is he wearing that because she's going to be there? Maybe I should glance at his cell phone and see what he's been doing? Meditation helps to turn down the volume on the often irrational voice in the head. Have you ever tried telling yourself, “My new rule is that I'm not going to react with anger next time I don't like my partner's driving”? Without a doubt, you're reacting angrily next time you're riding with your partner. The only way to improve this behavior is to be more calm, and you simply can not tell yourself to be more calm—that is something you have to do. If you're feeling like sometimes your relationship brings out a bad side of you rarely seen elsewhere, which sadly is not uncommon, meditation is definitely worth a try!

There are also a number of guided meditation CDs that focus specifically on having better, more loving relationships. These CDs will walk you through a meditation in which you might focus on a relationship-centered mantra, use visual imagery of loving and supporting your partner in a more healthy way, put yourself inside your partner's body and experience what it feels like to see things from his or her point of view (including how he or she sees you), and work to heal and forgive any past problems. The guided meditation CDs are really effective, soothing, and effective. Try doing one of these relationship-centered meditations with your partner—what a great way to strengthen your relationship.

You'll find that meditation is full of benefits for every aspect of your life—relationships just being one of many. 

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com


How to Use Contemplation During Meditation

According to spiritual coach and mentor Timothy Paul, contemplation with regards to meditation is, “The inner awareness of Source at all times. It is a loving, peaceful, ever present relationship with Source. It is a gentle whisper, a hug, a loving kiss from within that allows you to truly experience what life is. It increases your awareness of the present moment and at times, if you allow, fills you with joy and happiness and gratitude.” Traditional meditation's aim is to be without thought, soaking up the serenity of the stillness. On the other hand, contemplative meditation, or analytical meditation as it is also known, has a different approach.

Branches During a contemplative meditation, you will consciously focus on a particular thought. In Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's book Turning the Mind into an Ally, these suggested steps are given for contemplative meditation:

  • Calm the mind by resting on the breathing.
  • When you feel ready, bring up a certain thought or intention in the form of words.
  • Use these words as the object of meditation, continually returning to them as distractions arise.
  • In order to help rouse the heartfelt experience of their meaning, think about the words. Bring ideas and images to mind to inspire the meaning.
  • As the meaning of the words begins to penetrate, let the words drop away, and rest in that.
  • Become familiar with that meaning as it penetrates.
  • Conclude your session and arise from your meditation with the meaning in your heart. 'Meaning' is direct experience, free of words.
  • Now enter the world aspiring to conduct yourself with the view of your contemplation. For example if you have been contemplating the preciousness of human birth, your view will be one of appreciation.

Suggested thoughts or intentions to use for contemplative meditation may be things you struggle with but would like to be more accepting of. If you are having relationship difficulty, you may envision stepping inside your partner's body and walking around in their life for awhile, seeing you and the relationship through their eyes. You may also find it helpful to write down your thought for the meditation to help you get 100% clear before you begin. Try to condense the thought into one clear, concise, brief sentence if possible. As usual, give great attention to your breathing, upright posture, and quiet mind during a session of contemplative meditation.

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com




image courtesy of Axel Kramer


Using Your Senses During Meditation

Sometimes it seems we view our senses as distractions from good meditation. The senses have to be overcome in order to get into that deep meditative space. Something you can try is doing just the opposite—using and actively focusing on your senses during meditation. This is a great activity to practice mindfulness and noting as well.

IStock_000006270894Medium You might start your sensory experience by doing what is called “walking meditation.” Walk around your neighborhood or a natural feature nearby (river, lake, forest, hilltop) and merely take in whatever you sense. What are you smelling? Seeing? Hearing? Touching? Observe and be aware without classifying the sensations. Merely be mindful. You might consider this your “pre-meditation.” Upon return to your house, do a formal sensory meditation in the same way.

You can also do meditations in which you focus solely on one of your senses.

For example, here are some ideas for hearing meditations:

  • Listen to the regular noises around you with your eyes closed. Do you hear a refrigerator humming that skipped your attention before? Are people walking or cars passing outside? What does silence sound like? Pretend you're at a symphony focusing on each and every sound.
  • Meditate with a CD on very quietly so that you have to focus intently to hear it.
  • Plug your ears with cotton balls or even your fingers and listen to the sounds inside your body.

For smelling meditations, try any of the following:

  • Have several fragrant objects in front of you and begin your meditation. Once into a deepened state, place one of the fragrant objects by your nose and just be mindful of the smell. Allow yourself to scan through any memories you have associated with the smell. It is best to pick pleasant-smelling objects (no stinky gym socks). Try a flower, a scented candle, essential oil, cinnamon, garlic, herbs, etc.
  • Close your eyes and merely observe what the space around you smells like. Does the smell convey anything to you? If you smell “nothing,” what does that experience feel like?

For taste meditations, here are some ideas:

  • Place a piece of food in your mouth as you meditate and just let it sit there, slowly melting or softening in your mouth. Allow yourself to focus solely on the taste and experience.
  • Meditate with a clean, “average-feeling” mouth (not after eating or brushing your teeth when there are distinct flavors in your mouth). As you meditate, draw your attention to what the nothingness in your mouth tastes like. Is it salty? Sweet? Metallic? Simply taste your mouth and observe without judgment.

For touch meditations, consider:

  • Get a professional massage and as you lay there experience the touch with the voice in the head silenced. How does the touch feel? Use noting throughout the massage, “Shoulder. Shoulder. Knot. Rubbing. Shoulder.” Be mindful and still.
  • Gather up objects with different textures from around your house and place them in front of you while you begin to meditate. When you are into your meditative state, feel the objects and their different textures. Again, observe mindfully. Feel the texture, the weight, the density, the shape, and the size of each object.

Rather than trying to fight to turn your senses off turning meditation, consider a different approach of exploring them with focus and concentration. 


~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com


Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief #3

Have you ever felt stressed and just don't know what to do about it? Maybe you don't have the time to exercise more or the money for that spa visit. Meditation can help relieve some of that stress in just a few minutes a day. 

This is the third in a series of stress relief techniques through meditation. Please come back – or better yet, subscribe – to learn more through the weeks.

Raisin Stress Relief Technique #3 – Focus on an Object 

Focusing on an object is also a popular meditation for stress relief. A popular one, for example, is to place a raisin in your mouth and observe all of the sensations as it dissolves. You don't chew it, you just explore through your 5 senses the object. The raisin passes through many stages before it disappears, challenging many of your senses. This technique, like the the previous ones discussed here, relieves you of any burden of having to face a meditation session without any sort of “agenda” or mantra, which should take the edge off any anticipation you feel. You can focus on an object you hold in your hand with your eyes closed, an object you look at with your eyes open, or an object in your mind's eye. 

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com


More Information/Sources: 



How Meditation is Used For Pain Management

Medical News Today recently reported on a study of the effects of zen meditation on pain management. The goal of the study was to see if experienced meditators experienced pain differently than non-meditators. Joshua Grant of the Université de Montréal who was in charge of the study said, “While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly-trained meditators. This study was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception.”

Birds In the study, 13 zen meditators with at least 1000 hours of meditation under their belts underwent a pain sensitivity test with a control group of 13 non-meditators. A heat source was placed at varying degrees of temperature on the calf muscles of the subjects intermittently. Not surprisingly, there was an observable difference between the two groups. The meditators breathed an average of 12 breaths per minute, while the non-meditators breathed roughly 15. The meditators also reported 18% less pain than did the control group. Grant concluded, “While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators.”

This example is just one of many reporting benefits of meditation on chronic pain levels. So how do you use meditation for pain management? A great way to begin is by thoroughly stretching out your muscles. This will help get your blood circulating. Once you are stretched out, get into a comfortable, upright, seated position in which your posture is good and your chin is up. Remove any distractions from the room. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Draw out your breaths making them long and slow. Focus your attention on your breathing.

Many chronic sufferers prefer what is called guided imagery meditations to manage their pain. The easiest way for a beginner to do a guided imagery meditation is to buy a CD for this specific purpose and listen to it. The guided imagery meditation CD will lead you through the entire process from start to finish. These meditations are called “guided” because you are listening to a voice on the CD lead you through what to do. The term “imagery” refers to the meditation asking you to visualize and create mental pictures. For example, for pain management, often meditators will visualize the area of their pain being soothed by a protective bubble of soothing energy or their tumors being flushed out of their bodies and so on.

The techniques of Shinzen Young are also highly recommended for pain management meditation. Visit Shinzen.org to learn more about his innovative techniques. Be sure to check out the synopsis of his book Break Through Pain under the “Articles” tab.

  ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 







image courtesy of Axel Kramer

Getting Sleepy While Meditating

For many, meditation's greatest challenge is not to feel sleepy in the act. Of course, it is wonderful that meditation can bring about such a relaxed state, however, it is ultimately counter-productive. There are many things you can try when you catch yourself nodding off in meditation (or to prevent nodding off altogether).

First, ensure that your posture is upright. Sit on the floor with a pillow under you (causing your hips to tilt slightly forward) for help. Still others recommend sitting directly on the hard ground in the lotus position if sleepiness is an issue. Furthermore, many people do sit up straight while meditating, but they do it with the aid of leaning on a chair back or wall. While this might seem like good posture, the very best stance for proper meditation is to support your own weight. If sitting up straight doesn’t do the trick, standing is also an option.

Alarmclock Another tip is to simply be mindful of the sleepy feeling. When a drowsy sensation arises, simply take note of it without concern or sentiment. As you know with other intrusive thoughts and feelings during meditation, the practice of mindfulness allows one to acknowledge the disruption without losing focus or getting distracted from the meditation. Let the sensation of sleepiness fade away as you would any other unwanted thought during meditation.

If sleepiness is a chronic problem, consider changing the time of your daily meditations. Maybe a before-bed or after-waking meditation is not appropriate for you. Studies show that our minds are most active in the late afternoon—try meditating or 3:00 or 4:00 PM everyday. As counter-productive as that may sound, it will certainly teach mental discipline and flexibility. Also, meditating right before a meal (preferably lunch or dinner) is a recommended time.

Having a cup of green tea before your meditation is another option. Green tea is naturally caffeinated and known to invigorate and energize. Drinking too much tea might create the feeling of agitation or needing to use the restroom during the meditation (which can certainly help keep you awake but also be highly distracting). Take a few sips of green tea on an empty stomach for the best results.

You might also consider trying walking meditations or open-eye techniques so the meditation is less like sleep. In walking meditations, you simply walk around your neighborhood or a natural area (river, lake, hill, garden, forest) and practice mindfulness. You see what you see, noting it but not allowing a mental dialogue to flow in your mind. Likewise, open-eye techniques involve staring at a spot on a soft-colored wall or allowing your eyes to glaze over and become foggy so that you are seeing but not looking. In general, any non-rhythmic focus during the meditation can help keep you awake (such as focusing on listening rather than breathing).

Still other meditation gurus argue that sleepiness during meditation is not really a concern. They say as long as you come out of the meditation to find greater peace and serenity, your purpose has been accomplished. Whether this sentiment resonates with you or not is entirely up to you. If your purpose in meditation is to connect with God or the Universe (not relaxation), then sleepiness may still be an issue.

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com