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He caught the echo, though. He stopped mid-stride, as frozen as the air. Avalanches were common this time of year. He'd seen trees, buildings and people swept away and entombed in suddenly rock-hard snow that fell from mountaintops like a flood. They started with a crack and a whisper, then built like an oncoming storm to be the loudest thing he'd ever heard. The last of it faded away, and he couldn't see the tell-tale sign of a plume of snowy air rising from the slopes.

Everything was quiet again, the sound of even the wind muffled and distant. It was said that there were foolish hunters and old hunters, but never foolish old hunters.

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He stayed still for a while, scanning the east and west slopes with a practised, hand-shadowed gaze, but there was nothing he could spot. Perhaps it had been something in the next valley along, then, reverberating from peak to peak. More cautiously, pausing at every cairn to listen, he walked higher and higher. The gradient wasn't that bad—the Romans who'd used it a thousand years earlier had picked out the route and built one of their wide roads south to north. But up near the head of the pass, there were no smoothed stones or compacted gravel left.

The via had worn away to soil and rock, just as it once was, and probably always would be. He looked behind him. The line of cairns stretched away into the distance. Looking ahead, he could see three more before the slope took them out of sight. Almost there. He trudged on. The snow rose over the turn-downs on his boots, and almost up to his knees. Not much, considering how high it would have been piled at Yuletide; warm air from the south helped clear the pass sooner. Difficult to walk in, all the same. He plunged his walking-stick down, pulled out his knife and bent low to notch the wood.

His breath condensed about him as he marked the snow level, not as proof—any idiot could stand at the bottom of the valley and guess—but for tradition. He'd been shown how to do it by a man now five years dead, and at some point he'd have to show some other rough kid from the mountains that this is what happens when you want to declare the pass open.

The flake of wood he'd cut fell to the snow. By the time he reported to the prince and the first ceremonial wagon was rolled up the via, even this covering would be little more than slush. They were in the far distance, coming down from the very top of the Aineck and almost invisible against the background: three large—and one of them was really very big—figures.

They cast long black shadows that rippled against the contours of the snow, moving purposefully towards him. There wasn't much meat on him, but giants weren't particularly picky about their choice of game. If they caught him, they'd eat him: quite how they'd spotted him at such a distance was a mystery left for later. Time to go. If he turned around now, he'd just about beat them to the lower slopes, and at this time of year they wouldn't venture much below the snow line.

While one man out on his own was prey, a crowd of them with spears was a predator. Giants were just smart enough to care about the difference. He was about to turn and follow his footsteps back when he saw a pack slowly sway into view. Then the ass it was strapped to. Then the man driving the ass on with a switch.

He stopped again and stared. Maybe twenty donkeys, each with a pack tied high on their backs and roped together, and a dozen men at intervals down the chain, encouraging their charges to climb. He kept on coming though, switching the ass's hindquarters as it struggled upwards with its load. The driver looked behind him and shouted something in a language that sounded like Italian.

He knew he should have kept the giants in sight. They could be anywhere now: together, split up, ahead, or coming over the ridge behind them. He mimed their size by lifting his hands as far over his head as he could and stamped the ground. What was the word? Stupid foreigners: why couldn't they speak German like civilised people? Now he had their attention. The driver relayed the message down the line, and he definitely said "gigante" at some point. Prince Gerhard, Carinthia, welcome. Giants, you Venetian cretin. Three of them, over to the east, though gods only know where they are now.

And what are you doing here anyway? Didn't anyone tell you the pass is closed? Yes, we do. We open it and we close it and between times we make sure that people like you don't get butchered up here.

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The first one was past him, the second one going by now. Their breath made little clouds and frost sparkled on their brown coats. They were making too much noise, and even he could smell them. Their scent must be driving the giants into a frenzy. It would be mostly useless against a foe whose reach was far longer—he carried a Norse-style blade, short and broad—but he felt better knowing it was there. Giants usually just waded in, fists swinging. One blow was enough. What were they waiting for? Besides, we have a little insurance of our own. We just have the best.

He'd seen the giants, he'd warned the merchant. He couldn't force them to turn back, or to abandon their cargo, or to sacrifice half the donkeys in order to try and save the other half, and themselves into the bargain. And besides, magicians gave him the fear in a way even a fully grown dragon didn't. Good luck. As you consciously step more and more into all that is good and right in the world, your vibration will naturally rise. I feel so unsettled these days because of the crisis in Japan. How do you feel about this? Are we going to get through this?

Please note that I do not intend to make light of the situation in Japan or human suffering in general. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones, homes and businesses in this tragedy, and to all who face an uncertain future — which includes you and me, my friend.

However, in asking for my opinion, I assume that you are seeking a higher spiritual perspective on all of this. From this higher spiritual perspective, I can see that all is well and that there are valuable lessons and opportunities in this situation. The reason you are feeling uneasy is because the whole world is feeling uneasy.

Your unsettled feelings belie the fact that we are all connected; what happens to one happens to all on some level. This is perhaps the greatest lesson humanity is in the process of learning right now. We live in exciting times. Now we are all connected on more than a spiritual level; we instantly receive news of what is happening across the globe in vivid, full-color images. Further, given nuclear technology, what happens in other parts of the world could have a devastating effect on us here.

I believe that what we see happening on a physical level mirrors what is happening on a spiritual level, and that the political and ecological problems we are facing arise from an inner spiritual crisis. When we began to question and reject organized religion, we lost more than just false beliefs and illusions: most of us also lost all sense of the sacred.

This created a hole in the soul of the world and left many people spiritually adrift. It also encouraged the abuse of the planet and other people, for if nothing has meaning, then life becomes entirely materialistic. To me it just makes sense that in order to address the crises we see in our outer experience, we must look to what is happening on an inner level.

For one thing, it is from the inside that we make decisions: it is our values that determine how we treat the planet and each other. Further, the seeds of physical existence are planted metaphysically; the state of the physical world reflects what is happening on a spiritual level, so to change what is happening in the outer world, we must change what is happening within. Just as we can now fly around the world and connect with people on other continents via phone and internet, we are all growing more and more overtly connected.

This is moving us toward the realization that we are not separate individuals, separate races and separate nations, but all part of one big family sharing the same planet and resources. Whether it is by divine design or not, tragedies like the one in Japan are awakening us all to the realization of Oneness. I am sure that we are all going to get through this, but it may not happen here on Earth unless we wake up and develop a respectful attitude toward all life as sacred. Our ancestors had a healthy respect for nature; events like the earthquake and tsunami are reminders that we are completely dependent on the same nature we are so determined to conquer and exploit.

The reason I believe we will all get through this is because I know we are more than our physical bodies. Since we are all multidimensional beings, when we die, we will all continue to exist in other dimensions. The earth plane is a place of limited physical resources and extreme contrast. We incarnated here to have an intense experience in hopes of achieving tremendous spiritual growth. You are understandably afraid. The news is full of frightening information about war, ecological destruction and every sort of tragedy imaginable.

You begin to do this by holding a vision that is beautiful and peaceful. You can send prayers to those in need and imagine everyone coming together to help each other. If there is something overt you can do to help those who move you with compassion, do it. Otherwise, vow not to be sucked into fear and despair but instead to keep your inner light burning bright so it can shine out to others and illuminate their way. For more information on transcendental meditation, visit istpp.

I have a friend who is always raving about the benefits of yoga and has piqued my interest. Last week, I attended a yoga class at a local gym and I have to say that I was disappointed. I thought yoga was somehow going to be spiritual — that I would feel something special during the experience — but it was basically an exercise class full of very limber people. Do you think yoga has spiritual benefits?

Do I just need to keep at it or was I perhaps just expecting too much from the experience? Please note that when I use the word yoga in this article, I am referring to yoga as most Westerners view it: as a form of exercise that involves movement through various poses. When most of us think of yoga, we probably think of hatha yoga, which involves a slow-paced, gentle series of different poses. There are a number of other yoga schools that are popular in the U. There is an abundance of information on these and other styles available on the internet, so I encourage you research what each one emphasizes so you can find the right style for you.

Of course, even within a particular style, every yoga teacher is a unique individual and will teach in a unique way. The same is true of yoga. There are people who could turn a class on how to change a flat tire into a spiritual experience, and others who could spend an entire hour of Bible study talking about mundane, trivial matters.

Similarly, there are students who can find the spiritual meaning in every life experience, and there are others who could receive a thunderbolt from heaven and think of nothing but the weather. My point is that with everything in life, what we take from an experience largely depends on what we bring to it.

Naturally, I never returned! As you can see, finding the right teacher is essential. I therefore do encourage you to keep trying, for the more familiar you become with a certain practice, the more you can put your left brain aside to get fully present. Through mindful yoga practice, you can move into greater harmony on all levels of your being and into greater sync with the Universe. This state of harmony can lead to improved physical health and fitness as well as profound well-being on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level. Yoga developed as a way for spiritual seekers to achieve higher states of consciousness in meditation.

A yoga teacher once explained that yoga was what one did before attempting to engage in deep meditation, the idea being that by getting all the tension out of the body, it would be far more comfortable to sit in a meditation pose for hours afterward. In my experience, it is indeed amazingly easy to go directly into a very profound state of consciousness when meditating directly after practicing yoga. Getting centered in our bodies and gently stretching toward greater flexibility has concurrent effects on a metaphysical level. When we let go of physical tension, we naturally begin to let go of tension in our hearts and minds.

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As we move through each pose, we let go of stress and strain from everyday life and can quickly shift from a bad mood into feelings of profound peace and joy. In fact, yoga practice encourages such a high vibration that it can lead to instant healing not only of emotional issues but also physical ailments and imbalances. Further, the more we engage in the process of getting centered within, the more we carry this ability throughout our everyday lives. We can then move through all sorts of normally upsetting situations with calm grace because we are so practiced at moving in this way.

Yoga encourages a state of health on all levels, for balance is health, and yoga cultivates balance in the body and between the various aspects of our being. When we are in balance physically, our bodies feel good. When we are in balance emotionally, we feel centered and calm. When we balance all aspects of our being, we begin to embody graceful poise and radiant vitality. Yoga also opens us up for a greater flow of life force energy, which leads to shining health and happiness.

In some cases, yoga can ignite kundalini and spark a spiritual awakening and the development of psychic powers. When we are fully present to each moment and in a peaceful, high vibration, our intuition blossoms and we begin to receive all sorts of insights and creative ideas on how to solve problems and create what we want in our lives. Further, the more we synchronize our bodies with our hearts, minds and spirits like this, the better we get at this sort of communication.

This allows us to hear different aspects of our beings telling us what we most need. This greater intuitive awareness helps us flow through everyday life much like we flow through different yoga poses: we spontaneously take just the right actions, say just the right words, and know just the right way to move forward so that what we desire to happen happens and our journey remains smooth. On top of all of this guidance, yoga practice enhances our ability to consciously create what we want in our lives via the law of attraction.

When we move into sync with the Universe, our desires merge with the desires of nature, which makes it far easier to focus on something and attract it into our experience. I think yoga is great for everyone, but I have found that it is especially beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety disorders because it helps them train themselves to relax into the moment instead of endlessly worrying about the future. It is also beneficial for spiritual seekers who are highly energetic and find it hard to sit still for meditation.

Finally, yoga is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between the physical and the spiritual, for it harmonizes all aspects of our being and opens us up to a higher level of spiritual awareness and experience. I would like to know if spirituality in any form can help with social anxiety.


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Mistrust is basically fear that we will be deceived, disappointed or betrayed. Will they treat me as well as I treat them? Trust is basically faith that whatever happens, everything will be fine. This faith is of the spirit. It requires a general perspective of unity, and assumes we are all in this together. Instead of competing against each other for what we want and need, we are all actors playing our own parts in this great performance called life, and it would certainly be boring if we were all perfect saints.

In my view, the ONLY practices that will truly help you heal your inability to trust others are spiritual practices, for a spiritual path will lead you from ego to spirit, from fear to faith. You will learn to look beyond surface appearances and past your temporal fears about betrayal and disappointment for the deeper meaning in your experiences, and connect with people on a higher level. When you do this, you will not only grow as a person and enjoy a sense of inner peace and security, you will also draw out the best in others. You will manifest a higher level of experience and draw a higher quality of people into your life.

It sounds like you are in the process of making a shift onto a more conscious spiritual path. In relationships, our solar plexus sends us warnings to help us protect ourselves, our interests and our resources. When we shift our awareness up into our hearts, we are guided to love ourselves and others, to heal, nurture, and manifest emotional fulfillment.

Earth is a great spiritual school because it creates all sorts of fears about physical survival that one does not encounter in the non-physical. It is basically an exercise in learning to overcome fear in order to choose Spirit. Further, we all carry a deep longing to recover the bliss of the non-physical, and we usually first seek that special feeling in earthly experiences and other people.

This quest for a perfect person naturally leads to disappointment and cynicism. As we begin to build faith in something higher than our worldly experiences, we grow toward the thing we are truly longing for — a direct relationship with God. This leads us to peace with life and people — just the way they are. When you learn how to step outside your ego and view people and experiences from the perspective of Spirit, you will rise above self-interest. In time you may gain the ability to discern why others are behaving as they are, and what spiritual issues they are dealing with. Then you may even be able to offer them love, compassion and spiritual guidance as they struggle with their life lessons.

Further, by greeting others from a place of spirit instead of ego, you will bring out their higher natures. When you do this with feeling, their soul will hear your soul even if their conscious mind remains oblivious. Sit quietly and completely relax your body. Spend at least five minutes getting very deeply centered and relaxed via conscious breathing.

Breathe in deeply to a count of four; hold that breath full in your belly to a count of four; exhale slowly to a count of four; pause before breathing in again to a count of four. Notice how a feeling of calm well-being washes over you, and how as you wait to take that next breath, you have a moment of worry — can you wait until the count of four? Notice how the next breath is always available to you, and observe how in knowing this, you can wait for that full count.

You can trust and sit with your lungs empty for a few counts, for at any moment, you can always choose to breathe. The next breath is always available; well-being is always available. You just have to allow yourself to breathe it in. Look around at all the children there. Some are from loving families, while others feel much more alone in the world. Some have been taught good manners, while others are struggling to learn how to follow the rules.

As young children, each one is lovable and vulnerable in his or her own way. You can see them struggling with problems and try to help them, but there are many things they will have to learn for themselves. There are many other moments, however, when they reach out to touch you with curiosity, when they want to play with you and be your friend, when they lean against you with trust and affection. You are at peace with all of this, for you accept that this is how children are: They can be adorable one moment and exasperating the next.

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You also know better than to take their behavior personally. You can see that they are all divine spirits struggling to learn their way in the world, just like you, and you know that they are doing the best they can. You also know that the more you love them and allow them to learn and grow in their own way, the more they will love and respect you, and want to do a good job for you.

Besides, your own happiness and well-being do not depend on the fleeting choices of any particular child — your well-being is as available to you as your next breath, and you choose when to breathe it in.

You have learned that you can sit with disappointment or emptiness with trust that whenever you want or need to, you can breathe in the love, peace and happiness you desire. I truly believe that if you ask Spirit to heal you and guide you to positive relationship experiences, your life will begin to change in wonderful ways. Lie or sit in a relaxed and comfortable position, as you would for any meditation. Your spine should be straight and your head in alignment with your body. This meditation is in script mode, should you want to tape it and listen to it while performing the meditation.

A free audio recording of this meditation can be found here. The following is just one way of performing energy balancing. Allow your meditations to evolve and to reflect your individual values and beliefs. If taped, a slow, deliberate pace should be used with a soothing voice and the appropriate pauses. The body should already be relaxed and the mind tranquil when beginning this meditation. Eyes are closed. Take some deep breaths…In…. Follow the breath as it flows toward your nostrils, as it enters your nose, as it fills your lungs and then as it is expelled. Breathe in, following your breath…and let it go.

In…and out. With every breath that you let go, you find yourself going deeper and deeper into a profound state of relaxation. Feel the sweet heaviness of your body as it sinks into perfect relaxation. Become aware of your body from head to toe, of your weight, of the heaviness of your limbs. Now focus on the area at the base of the spine, the area between your legs. This is the root chakra. Its energy is red, and it governs your physical body, your physical health and vitality. In your mind, study the appearance of this chakra.

Note its color and vitality. Mentally envision the chakra and note any symbolic symptoms of dis-ease. Have you been caring well for your body? If your chakra is dusty, dirty, torn, or otherwise less than a perfectly brilliant red whirling vortex, imagine your hands or those of a guide working on the chakra. If it is dirty, clean away the dirt and throw it into an imaginary pail with a lid. Allow those hands to repair any imperfections, and when the chakra is beautifully clean, mentally take the pail and hurl it into the sun.

Watch it as it travels through space and then bursts into a billion bits of energy upon solar contact. Know that the sun will recycle this energy back into the universe. Now turn your attention back to the root chakra. It is a clean and red. You are surrounded by brilliant, beautiful red root energy. Imagine the room glowing red with this energy, and feel its strength and power. See red swirls of energy flowing to your root chakra. You may even feel this as a tingling as the energy fills your root chakra. As the energy swirls in, your chakra grows large and deep red and strong.