How to Reduce Stress at Work: 6 Tips for Staying Balanced In Chaotic Circumstances

There are pretty obvious signs when we’re feeling stressed at work. Irritation, anxiety, impatience…

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Image from Pixabay.

There are pretty obvious signs when we’re feeling stressed at work. Irritation, anxiety, impatience, lack of enthusiasm and interest, working on a short fuse—we all know them, and we’ve probably all felt them at one time or another.

Work-related stress is not an uncommon occurrence and, its triggers are usually pretty straightforward. For example, how familiar is the following list of stress triggers to you?

  • Sudden change of pace and environment
  • A lost promotion
  • Communication barriers
  • Sudden crisis
  • Long, continuous working hours
  • Poor salary and lack of timely appraisal
  • Role conflicts and poor job description boundaries
  • Lack of career development
  • Monotonous work profile (aka assembly-line work)
  • Unmet expectations
  • Chaotic and emotional work environment.

And stress comes with all sorts of behavioral and physiological modifiers. For instance, it’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves irritable, confused, and without interest when we are experiencing stress. Our bodies may show other adjustments, like irregular blood pressure, migraine headaches, changes in appetite and weight gain, sudden hair loss.

The good news is, once we fully understand the problem, it’s easier to find a solution to match. The following tips are tried and true for successful stress management.

1. Clean Your Workspace

 

This is wherever you do most of your work, be it at home or at the office. Give it a good cleaning. Re-instate your work station. Give yourself a fresh start and your workstation too. Stress management at work starts with ‘chaos management’ –it’s important that our immediate environment is organized to avoid confusion and burnout. By simplifying our work station, we open ourselves to being more organized and productive, and small tasks that tend to fall through the cracks are more easily caught and can be incorporated into manageable workflows. Sometimes our stress is simply due to a lack of organization and an inability to keep all our changing tasks clear in our minds.

2. Organize your Calendar

 

The next step is to gear up and organize your schedule on a calendar– set it with prior notifications so you can manage your time and tasks with much more efficiency. If we are constantly holding our to-do list in our heads, it can spiral out of control very quickly.

Our calendar is our tool to keep our tasks our of our minds until it’s time to take action on them. This frees up our mind to be action-oriented instead and allows us to shift from a reactive mental state to a proactive state.

3. Avoid Multitasking

 

Studies have proved at multi tasking is more of a quality-deteriorating activity rather than a time-saving gift. People who indulge in multi-tasking are more likely to perform poorly in assigned projects, compared to people who focus on accomplishing one project at a time. Moreover, the cumulative time consumed in accomplishing two projects simultaneously has been recorded to be much longer than the sum amount of time consumed in accomplishing two activities, one after another. Multitasking greatly contributes to the added pressure and results in additional stress. Hence, it is best to avoid it.

4. Communicate

 

Once we maximize our efficiency by clearing our workspace, organizing our calendar and focusing on one task at a time, we might still find that we’re encountering a lot of stress. For example, our workload might be altogether unreasonable, or our project teams may not be working together as well as they could be. In these situations, communication is the key.

In order to maximize the likelihood that we will get what we want from these situations, it’s important that we are clear about our feelings, needs and requests before we walk in the room or send the email.

For example, in a recent email I sent to my manager I indicated that I was feeling stressed out due to too much work. I was able to identify that my some of my basic needs were not being met: autonomy (feeling like I have control over my life and my time), safety(stress does not feel safe in my body), and rest & recreation. Once I identified my unmet needs, I made a request to have more scheduled breaks during my workday. While we may not always be granted our requests, we will at least gained clarity about unmet needs and strategies for getting those needs met

5. Practice Meditation

 

But, Meditation is a magical remedy when it comes to dealing with any kind of mental stress. All it takes is a 20-minute of non-monetary investment and you are on your way to a stress-free mind. The most important quotient is — how to ensure we practice meditation well enough to reap its benefits well? In what way can we make sure those moments spent in the practice of meditation technique are the moments well spent. Let us glance at that.

There are two major components that combine the practice of Meditation – Breath Awareness and Posture.

‘Breath’ is the bridge between the body and the mind. And, ‘posture’ is the vessel that facilitates this divine process.

6. Indulge in some Yoga practice

 

Practice yoga for instant relief from stress-related symptoms. Asanas like Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose), Marjariasana (Cat Stretch), Paschimottanasana (Two-Legged Forward Bend), Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend), AdhomukhaSvanasana (Downward Facing Dog), etc. are ace yoga asanas for dealing with work-related stress. Alternatively, you can also practice chair yoga poses if you are unable to find space for ground exercises.

Here at our online studio, we have hundreds of yoga and meditation videos to choose from, some of which can be practiced right at the office!

These tips help you refurbish your work-life towards its betterment.

Here’s to living a happy and stress-free life! 

Author Bio :

Predeep KumarisPradeep Kumaris a passionate Blogger, Yogi, Traveler and a Yoga Teacher. He teaches Yoga in a Yoga School in India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas. . His strong connection with Yoga and the Himalayas has made him to organize yoga, meditation and Ayurveda tours and Yoga retreats in Himalayas.

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Examples Of Companies Using Mindfulness: How It Affects Their Bottom Line

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work…

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work than we do at home. Often thrown together with a group of people that we’ve never met before, we’re expected to work, collaborate and be productive in an environment that’s largely alien to the way we have historically built communities. It’s therefore no surprise that things don’t always go smoothly, and research suggests that the hours we spend at work are the least happy of our lives.

At the worst end of the spectrum are the horrors of workplace bullying, overbearing managers and internal conflict, and at the rosier end of the corporate rainbow is indifference, a lack of caring and reduced productivity. In an increasingly knowledge based economy, the success of a business is inherently linked with the mental dexterity, motivation and collaboration within its workforce. Poor working relationships and any subsequent stress can erode these very attributes, spelling disaster for the future performance of a business.

In an attempt to address these issues, new perspectives on employee wellbeing have been emerging over recent years, with mindfulness programs the seemingly “go to” solution for many organizations.

In simple terms, mindfulness is Buddhist tradition that focuses on moment-to-moment awareness. The practice of being mindful is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, observing your thoughts without judgment or criticism. By acknowledging that these thoughts are transient in nature, you can start to appreciate that you are not your thoughts, and you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

Backed by an increasing wealth of scientific evidence, business owners have been implementing a variety of mindfulness wellbeing initiatives throughout the corporate landscape; but do they actually work, and does it make a tangible difference to the bottom line?

In order to answer the question, it’s important to consider that the cost of stress on a business is twofold. First, there’s the direct cost that stress has on associated medical conditions, and according to the World Health Organization, stress is estimated to cost American businesses $300 billion a year.

Secondly, there’s the cost associated with a lack of creativity, reduced performance and productivity. While the latter is often much more difficult to quantify, there are organizations who have measured the impact of mindfulness, and the various effect that it’s had on their organization.

Aetna

Aetna is an American managed health care company that sells a variety of health insurance plans to its 46 million customers. Before he became CEO, Mark Bertolini almost died on a family skiing holiday, and during his recovery he used a combination of yoga and meditation to help manage the pain. The results were so profound that he fundamentally changed the way he viewed his recovery, and it inspired him to make a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives available for Aetna’s 50,000 employees, including free yoga and meditation classes.

With two mindfulness programs launched in 2010, Aetna collaborated with Duke University, eMindful, and the American Viniyoga Institute in order to study and understand the impact the wellbeing initiatives had on the organisation.

According to the research, participants showed significant improvement in perceived stress levels and various heart rate measurements, demonstrating that their bodies were better able to manage the various stresses that naturally occur during the working day.

The research also showed that highly stressed employees incurred an additional $2,000 per year in health care costs. With health care costs that total more than $90 million a year, the mindfulness initiative not only reduced the cost by 7 percent (a saving of $6.3 million per annum), but productivity gains amounted to $3,000 per employee.

General Mills

Janice Marturano was appointed by General Mills in 1996 as part of the organizations’ legal department, heading up policy work around trade regulation. After becoming embroiled in a £10.5 billion acquisition that lasted 18 months, combined with the sad loss of both parents during this period, the pressure and strain became too much, and Janice was left emotionally and physical drained.

After being offered an opportunity to attend a meditation retreat – led by Jon-Kabat-Zinn – the 6-day experience was the start of a daily meditation practice that she has continued ever since. With improvements in focus, emotional resilience and her overall quality of life, Janice decided to bring her lessons in mindfulness to General Mills in an ongoing pursuit to remake an entire corporate culture.

Now, more than 500 General Mills employees have taken part in the organizations’ mindfulness wellbeing program, and every building in the campus contains a meditation room, complete with yoga mats for employees to grab a few minutes of relaxation throughout the day.

Since the introduction of the program, the company’s reputation improved – with Leadership Excellence Magazine ranking it the best for developing leaders in 2012 – and after taking one of their seven-week courses, 80% of senior executives reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, and 89% saying they became better listeners.

Overall, the wellbeing program has helped employees to become more empathetic with each other, promoting a happy, healthy and engaging environment that’s viewed as a great place to work, 

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF)

Mindfulness has been a core theme for legal firm HSF for more than 10 years. Murray Paterson is the head of learning and development, and initially designed the mindfulness program to help support employees who frequently work in a highly pressured and stressful environment.

With many employees working long hours, and with an emphasis on detailed, accurate work, mindfulness was seen as a valuable technique that would help focus employees attention and improve the quality of work produced.

To date approximately 200 employees have gone through the 6-week mindfulness program that includes weekly mindfulness sessions for anyone who wants to drop in, a weekly hour and a half session learning how to work more effectively in the office, and a daily 10 minutes guided practice via a pre-recorded message.

Available to everyone, from senior executives to new, junior employees, some of the results from their internal research include:

  • 12% increase in employee focus
  • 10% increase in employee performance
  • 10% increase in employee efficiency
  • 17% increase in employee work/life balance
  • 11% increase in employee communication skills

According to Murray Paterson, there’s a strong correlation between their mindfulness practice and reduced feelings of stress, and employees are working in a way where they feel calm and focussed on the task at hand.

The variety of Mindfulness initiatives, from both large and small organizations, is reshaping significant corners of the corporate world. While many businesses will still value profits above all else, mindfulness initiatives are proving that supporting the wellbeing of staff and increasing quarterly profits aren’t mutually exclusive.

Does your business need a wellness program at work to ensure happy, healthy and productive employees? Pilgrimage Yoga Online specializes in workplace wellness and mindfulness, and has the skills necessary to coach beginners on the skills and practices necessary to stay balanced at work. Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more about our workplace wellness specialities.

BIO: This post was written by The Minded Institute, a world leader in the development and implementation of yoga therapy and mindfulness programs for those with mental health and chronic physical health problems.

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Kirtan Yoga Music: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Singing Kirtan

I have been chanting and singing Kirtans since I was first introduced to it by my grandmother

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I have been chanting and singing Kirtans since I was first introduced to it by my grandmother in the early 1980s. Her soft tender hands would hold my little hands and off we would walk to the nearby Kirtan center in India. The format was slightly different than what we experience today here in the west. It was a much more traditional style of singing – Kirtans with long lyrics, Indian folk and classical melodies, only traditional Indian instrument such as Tabla drums or Mridamgams.

I moved to Los Angeles area in 2002 and started exploring yoga studios and Kirtan centers. It was fascinating for me to see how western Kirtan leaders combined their own flavor of music with ancient mantras and chant and created beautiful melody. Here in the West, lyrics are short so that people can easily chant and sing back. Since then my spiritual singing practice has taken me to hundreds of Kirtan gatherings – from large festivals to small intimate gatherings, I have experienced it all.

Kirtan is a call and response style of singing that originated in India and became popular around the 12th century. There is a lead singer who introduces a chant or mantra at a low tempo. Participants respond back. There are typically some instrumentalist to help get the music going. Harmonium, Tabla drum, Mridamgam drums or Guitars, Sitars etc Once everyone is comfortable with melody and lyric, lead singer slowly builds up the tempo and music gets more intense and fast. People typically start clapping and break into a joyful dance. There is this feeling of buzz that people often relate to after Kirtan.

kirtan1

In my experience, I have noticed people smiling, giggling and much more relaxed after Kirtan. Here are the five Do’s and Don’t’s of kirtan.

DO’S

  1. Bring Your Heart

Kirtan singing is not a private activity. When you attend a Kirtan you will encounter lots of people – some chatty, some quite, some overly gregarious, some serious and everyone else in between. Come with an open heart. We all have our own life story and experiences that make us what we are. We all have different personalities. Embrace it with all your heart. It’s not necessary to stress or feel discomforted by the variety. It is what makes us unique. By allowing others to be themselves openly and freely, it opens a window of opportunity for us to do the same.

  1. Open up your voice

Look, I totally understand that you may not be the best singer in town. Neither is the person next to you or the one next to him/her. When we sing together your voice is not going to be the only voice. In Kirtan, voices merge together to create one sound. It is the singing together that mattes. Contribute yours. Make the experience count by singing out loud. Remember there are musicians, lead singers, other participants etc. We’re all in this together, so sing your heart out.

  1. Keep your ego away

This is a hard one for all of us. If you are a trained musician, don’t get all worked up if someone next to you is singing out of tune. It does not matter. Kirtan singing is not about technical singing at all. It is about sharing the melody and love that music creates. If you happen to be the Kirtan leader, try not to create Kirtans with intricate melodies or odd time signatures. You can keep them for your solo/band performances. Kirtan should to be simple and soulful. The idea is to encourage everyone to sing and participate, no mater how it looks or sounds.

kirtan2

  1. Be in the present moment

This is a pretty obvious one. Nonetheless, it’s easy to let our mind wander off to the stuff we want to forget about—that nosy co-worker, that guy in red Mercedes who cut us off, that person who gave us a left handed compliment and said “you look so nice with your makeup on.” Hmm what did she mean by that?

Let it all go and fade away. Although I am a firm believer of not suppressing your inner voice and thoughts, Kirtan is not a place to think about these. On the contrary, you participate in Kirtan to get such clutter out of your mind. The best way to do that is to become interested in participating fully in the kirtan experience, so that it’s possible to be in the present moment and enjoy.

  1. Embrace new words

Whether you are attending your very first Kirtan, or if it is your 154th, you will encounter words that are new and difficult for you. Kirtans are mostly written in Sanskrit – a foreign language that is not only new to you but is pretty darn hard even for people from the land where it originates from – India. So it is totally okay to skip a word or replace it with something that fits (as long as it is appropriate!) If you don’t get it the first time, try again. Kirtan singing is repetitive. The lead singer is going to be singing the same line again and again and again. So you will get plenty of chances to catch up. Be patient with yourself and people around you.

DON’TS

  1. Don’t beat yourself up

Really- isn’t that the entire idea of Kirtan? Don’t sweat it if you sing something wrong. You can observe and learn the next time. Don’t panic if you don’t know what the hell you are singing. Go with the flow- or don’t go- just let it flow.

  1. Don’t let your Kids go wild

Parents, guardians, grand-parents – I love kids and have my own. If you want to bring your kids to a Kirtan, remember to take care of them and keep them with you. Kirtans are not play dates or a time for them to start learning a new instrument. I enjoy being around kids and feel they can benefit greatly from Kirtans and meditation. However, as parents we need to teach them that Kirtan sessions are supposed to be a place where all participants are relaxed in meditation. Be mindful of others and either book a baby-sitter or talk to your kids about what to expect from a Kirtan before heading out.

kirtan3

  1. Don’t feel pressured to sing

I know I said above open your voice and sing. This is by no means a legally binding statement – you absolutely don’t have to sing if you just want to come, relax, and listen. Some people gain the same feeling of joy and meditation without uttering one word. If that’s the kind of person you are, don’t feel compelled to sing. The important thing is to be surrounded by the sound waves and energy. A lot of people find it easier to concentrate by singing but there are also those who feel more comfortable as a fly on the wall—a silent participator. If you are able to connect with your inner self and avoid distractions without singing and you don’t want to sing, then by all means, don’t sing.

  1. Don’t be uncomfortable

Typically Kirtan singing involves sitting down on the floor and singing for a couple of hours. If you are not used to it, there is no obligation for you to follow it. Bring a folding chair, yoga block or whatever you need to be comfortable. You don’t need to suffer and think about your knee pain while participating in a Kirtan. It will distract you from singing and be counter-productive.Be comfortable, be present.

  1. Don’t stand right in front of others

This one is my favorite. I have a good friend who always posts pictures of people behind who stand right in front of her and block her view during Kirtans. You may say, what is there to see in Kirtan- it is mostly dark anyway. But the person behind you might want to look at the lead singer, the musicians or other sites in the room. Being able to make eye contact with our surroundings, can help keep us focused and tuned in to what the singers are saying. Some lead singers make hand gestures to help cue the audience when to sing. If you’re a tall person who loves to stand, perhaps the back of the room is a better choice.

Would you like to explore the wonderful world of Kirtan? Here in San Diego, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga offers weekly kirtan in normal heights on Thursday nights. You can also study with us right here, at our online studio, and learn the basics of kirtan chants and see videos of kirtan performances. We hope to see you soon!

 

Author Bio: Kamini is a Kirtan and Indian Classical Singer based in LA area. She is the author of Kirtan eBook Indian Ragas for Kirtans. Kamini’s Kirtans bring out her deep spiritual background. They are extremely mystical and magnificently divine. People are left mesmerized by her angelic voice, her intricate improvisations, her odd meter rhythms and most importantly her radiant warm smile. For more information and to stay in touch, visit her website or facebook.

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How To Maximize Athletic Performance With Minerals: Magnesium Edition

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts?…

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By Brian Bishop

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts? Have you eaten enough but still find that you lack the energy to move the way you want to?

It could have something to do with magnesium.

What Is Magnesium & Why Is It Important?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body needs in large amounts in order to produce energy. It participates in over 300 bio-chemical reactions on a cellular level, and its primary role is to balance the body’s ability to function properly by acting as enzyme co-factors (agents that allow enzymes to do their job better). One of magnesium’s vital roles is in the chemical reactions that generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the fundamental unit of energy inside our cells.

The organelle in each cell responsible for producing ATP are the mitochondria, which are small power generators that convert oxygen into ATP. A key benefit of magnesium is its ability to help produce more mitochondria during exercise, which ultimately means more ATP and more sustained energy.

There are two ways to become a high performing athlete:

1. Increase the total number of mitochondria

and

2. Increase the efficiencies of the mitochondria

More magnesium in our diets can set off a chain reaction by increasing mitochondrion in the cells, which facilitates the creation of more ATP, which we experience as stamina, endurance and strength.

maximize2

How Does Magnesium Help Improve Performance?

To increase exercise performance, cells must be able to consume more oxygen. This is known as ‘oxidative capacity’ and is the ability to breakdown oxygen in your muscle cells via the mitochondria, which we now know is crucial in the development of ATP, which is essentially our biochemical way of storing and using energy in our muscles. This means that to be an efficient athlete, we must produce more ATP than we are consuming. Otherwise we will feel muscle fatigue, tiredness and may even experience muscle cramps.

How To Maximize Both Magnesium & Mitochondria

Studies have shown that exercises like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase the development of new mitochondria. This is done by cloning the cells via enzymes that require magnesium as a cofactor. Low magnesium levels reduces our ability to make new mitochondria and thus our ability to maximize exercise performance diminishes.

Here are daily optimal magnesium intakes for women and men:

  • Women – 310 mg
  • Men – 420 mg

Try out these sources for incorporating more magnesium into your diet:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Fruits like avocado, banana and figs
  • Nuts like sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Beans
  • Dark chocolate

 

About The Author:

Brian_bioBrian Bishop is a true health and nutrition enthusiast. He loves to read, watch and listen to anything about health. He is the best nootropics guide as he is always experimenting on himself for best results. Brian wants to share his knowledge so others can enjoy the benefits.

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Yoga For PTSD: The Surprising Effects Of Yoga & War Veterans

For all too many war veterans, returning from military service often comes with a price…

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By Heather Mason

For all too many war veterans, returning from military service often comes with a price. As many as 20% of war veterans who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD, and it’s estimated that 271,000 Vietnam veterans still have symptoms, some 40 years after the war ended. As the disorder becomes more widely known among veterans and their doctors, researchers are making strides in improving treatment.

But it’s clear that we need to do more.

The prevalence of PTSD has raised important questions around understanding the efficacy of various treatment methods, and the role complementary treatments can play as the science around PTSD continues to evolve.

While yoga isn’t a term typically associated with the military, research and anecdotal evidence is highlighting the positive effect that yoga is having on war veterans suffering from the condition.

What is PTSD? 

PTSD is a serious illness that can have a profound impact on people’s lives. When a person experiences a traumatic memory, it’s thought that the brain often has trouble processing information. Memories may feel as bad as if someone was going through the traumatic event for the very first time, and can lead to a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world, and the way they relate to other people.

From a physiological perspective, PTSD has been shown to decrease activity in the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in memory and emotional learning), and increase activity in the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with the fear response).

As a result, it’s not uncommon for the nervous system to remain on high alert many years after the event – making a person feel jumpy, highly vigilant, irritable, emotionally numb, and depressed. Disturbed sleep and changes to appetite are also common.

It’s hypothesized that these repetitive and intrusive memories are the result of the brain trying to process the event. If this process is inhibited in some way, then it will be stored in the brain alongside bad feelings, negative thoughts, and an array of bodily sensations that occurred during the event, including increased heart rate, chronic pain and headaches.

Traditional PTSD treatments

Two common forms of treatment are Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Prolonged Exposure (PE), and according to a review published in The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), while up to 70% of the men and women who received CPT or PE did experience improvements in symptoms, around two-thirds still met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment.

The interest in yoga is, in part, an attempt to understand the various effects of complementary therapies, and how they may ultimately be used to enhance the effects of existing approaches. With a wider variety of clinical options, yoga may not only act as a gateway into effective treatment, but it could also provide an alternative option for reducing symptoms that are often difficult to fully resolve.

Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure

In Cognitive Processing Therapy, patients learn how to identify, challenge and ultimately neutralise any unhelpful thoughts associated with a traumatic event, including any perceptions of guilt they may feel.

In Prolonged Exposure Therapy, the patient is allowed to re-experience the traumatic event in a safe and supportive environment – and over time, the repeated exposure is a step towards accepting this fear and reducing its impact on the individual.

While these methods have shown to be effective, adopting a “one-size fits all” approach has understandable limitations. Just as we all have different personalities, it’s argued that the effectiveness of certain treatments will vary depending on how comfortable a patient is talking about, or being repeatedly exposed to a traumatic event.

With regards to medication, Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and medical director of the Trauma Center, a clinic and training facility in Brookline, Massachusetts, has stated that using chemicals to abolish bad memories is also an interesting academic enterprise. Stating that in his opinion it’s “too-simplistic a view”, based on the assumption that a combination of mind, brain and sense of self is changed in response to trauma.

“The memory of the trauma is imprinted on the human organism,” he says. “I don’t think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body.”

Treating veterans and military personnel through yoga

It’s for these reasons that a variety of alternative and possible complementary approaches are being researched, and there have been some positive signs that yoga could play a role in treating PTSD.

In a study approved by the University of Toronto, 80 individuals suffering from PTSD followed an 8-week yoga program designed to:

1: Develop the skills to relax and cope with trauma and related stress

2: Cultivate mindful awareness of the body, mind, breath, and environment

3: Improve cognitions, behavior, and emotions related to self-esteem and self-efficacy

4: Enhance flexibility, strength, and balance

5: Reintegrate socially

The study found that those practicing yoga had significantly greater improvements in scores of PTSD, insomnia, perceived stress, positive and negative affect, resilience, stress, and anxiety in comparison to the control group.

Another study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress monitored the long-term effects of yoga on twenty-one male veterans who served in either Iraq of Afghanistan.

Over the course of a year, the study found that the group who had practiced yoga demonstrated fewer or less intense PTSD symptoms, had lower anxiety and lower respiration rates, and performed better in tests measuring eye-blink and breathing frequency in response to stimuli such as noise bursts – typically used to measure hyper-arousal and the regulation of emotions. Overall, the impact of traumatic memories was reduced.

It’s believed that the control of attention on the breath, the postures and the body, promotes a variety of changes in the brain, the limbic system and helps to rebalance the autonomic nervous system (responsible for our flight or fight response). The focus on the present moment reduces the anxiety-provoking chatter going in the head, enabling people to become less reactive and calming down the hormone-related stress cycle.

It would be remiss to say that yoga is the only effective treatment for PTSD, and there are various examples of other forms of treatment having success; but ideally we would move toward more research and clinical options that match patients to treatments, based on their preferences and their sensitivity to talking about their trauma.

This post was written by The Minded Institute, a world leader in the development and implementation of yoga therapy for those suffering with ptsd, and for people with mental health and chronic physical health problems.

Heather Mason Bio:

heatherHeather Mason is the founder of The Minded Institute, a world leader in the development and implementation of yoga therapy and mindfulness for those suffering with PTSD, mental health and chronic physical health problems.

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Treatments For Foot Pain: How Yoga Helps.

While yoga practice physically involves gentle stretching, deep breathing, and meditation, it also builds on foundational principles…

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By Joe Flemming

While yoga practice physically involves gentle stretching, deep breathing, and meditation, it also builds on foundational principles of positive thinking, mindfulness, truthfulness, self-discipline, and kindness.

In the same way, your body requires a steady and strong foundation with which to move and flow through the world. On a very physical level, you may consider your body’s foundation to be your feet – the magnificent pieces of evolutionary machinery which allow you to walk upright, run, exercise, stand, jump, you name it.

Feet take a beating over a lifetime. According to a 2004 study, a somewhat active person walks over 7,500 steps a day. That means, over 80 or so years, your feet are carrying you over 110,000 miles by the time all is said and done. Positive self-care activities should always include the feet, and luckily, regular yoga practice helps.

Check out these powerful foot benefits yoga has to offer:

Promotes Flexibility

It might be hard to think about your feet being flexible, but the elasticity of foot muscles and tendons is important to preventing injury and powering strong body movements.

Can you sit cross-legged and pull the toes back on one foot towards your ankle? Can you flex to bend and point your foot without pain? The flexibility of foot tissues like the plantar fascia, which runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes,

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helps keep them long, limber, relaxed, and more readily responsive to impact or force. Tight, stiff foot muscles and tendons don’t allow for full range of motion and can inhibit or strain some movements.

The gentle, flowing stretching of yoga practice is a lesson in flexibility – not just for your arms, back, and legs, but for your feet as well. The Cleveland Clinic shares, “Yoga postures that stretch and strengthen the legs and feet can help reduce and even relieve plantar fasciitis.” Poses like Prancing Feet, Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) help stretch the calf and feet muscles, like the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.

Strengthens Muscles & Tendons

With more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments per foot, your feet make up a comprehensive structure, which requires regular strengthening and toning. Ankles are especially susceptible to sprains and breaks because they are a major synovial hinge joint which can roll and strain with impact or even a simple misstep.

Yoga stretching and poses help strengthen the joint tissues as well as build newer, stronger muscles and tendons, which steady and stabilize foot and leg motion. Practitioners with previous injuries may benefit from wearing an ankle wrap, like a brace for sprained ankle, while taking part in yoga, or should ask for specialized instruction to avoid future injury.

Builds Bone Mass

Did you know your body does not naturally produce calcium?

Bones require calcium to remain dense and it is important to incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet. How do bones use the calcium you eat though? When you place additional stress on bones through exercise, like yoga, it cues the body to stimulate bone formation as well as to hold on to the existing calcium in bones, which are bearing weight. A 2016 study even revealed that a 12-minute yoga regimen actually reversed bone loss in some people suffering from osteoporosis.

Relieves Joint Pain

Arthritis in the foot can be a particularly painful experience, especially for older adults. It can limit mobility and prevent arthritis sufferers from staying active and exercising regularly. Yoga has been shown to boost blood flow to feet (which because of their distance from the heartless readily receive circulating blood), which can aid inflammation and soothe joint pain. The Arthritis Foundation shares result from multiple studies, which revealed significant improvements in measurements of various arthritic disease activity with routine yoga practice.

Where will your feet take you this year?  For practitioners young and old alike, keeping feet and legs in the best shape possible means staying mobile and independent. With regular yoga practice, stronger, healthier, more flexible feet are but a pose away.

Joe’s Bio:

joeJoe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.

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Yoga Retreats For Seniors: 5 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat In Your 60s

As we enter our 60s, we’re the wisest we’ve ever been, the boldest we’ve ever felt and probably for the first time…

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As we enter our 60s, we’re the wisest we’ve ever been, the boldest we’ve ever felt and probably for the first time in forever, we’re free from worldly shackles. Now is the time to take a breath and restart our lives the way we always wanted, re-invent ourselves by exploring new talents and embrace our cherished hobbies. Moreover, it is the perfect time to hop on an annual retreat and explore sides of our personality we never knew existed. In other words, yoga retreats for seniors is a very good thing.

By the time we’re 60, many of us have capitalized on physical activities such as yoga to maintain or reinvigorate our vivacity. Yoga goes a long way in giving us the vitality we need to follow our dreams and sets the foundation for a rediscovered self by providing us a sense of unity, mindfulness and the zeal for fulfilled living. This year, it’s time to trade in our regular vacation for an exhilarating yoga retreat where we will be guided through soulful yogic techniques amidst exotic locations. This is why a yoga retreat should be your next getaway:

  1. Get A Fresh Start In Life

Yogic methods were developed over 5,000 years ago to rejuvenate the body and attain a long life. Today, they act as one the most popular and widely used techniques to enhance physical and mental well-being. A yoga retreat is aimed at providing you a holistic yogic experience where guests attain focused yogic lessons and therapies from experts.

The ambience, food, company and activities are all designed to relieve you of the burdens of a hectic life and help you find inner peace. It is the ideal opportunity to finally let go of all the negativity that gets piled up in us over the years and embrace a new and positive approach when you finally hit your 60’s. It is probably for this reason that many people who go on yoga retreats claim it to be a life-altering experience.

Yoga retreats take you away from the daily rut into a picturesque location with yoga classes at least twice a day that use techniques like asana, meditation and pranayama to strengthen the body. As we get old, our muscles tend to stiffen, losing their range of motion, and we become susceptible to chronic problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Yoga helps slow down the ageing process by maintaining flexibility and softness, keeping the mind alert and awake. Its multi-pronged approach can encourage the body to remain strong, while reducing the effects of many age related issues.

Getting old might present many gifts – grace, maturity, experience, wisdom, to name a few. However, the process can also carry many challenges. Seniors experience higher rates of anxiety and depression, and other mental disorders, psychologically and emotionally.

In some cases, memory can decline, balance can be impaired, and with that sense of self suffers. Since yoga is focused on listening to your body, an additional benefit is the broadened awareness of self through practice. As you practice yoga, you become more mindful of not just your body but of your emotions and thoughts, connecting to the outside community on a whole.

A yoga retreat can help us take a step back and gain a fresh perspective on things.

  1. Strengthen Our Purpose In Life

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Our lives have become fast and full of distractions. By the time we’ve hit our sixties, we’ve been through marriages, careers, and children. We’ve had a lot of wins and a lot of losses. By retirement, we’ve probably wondered a thousand times, what is the purpose of all this, anyway?

A yoga retreat can remind us of what’s really important in life. The secluded and scenic ambience encourages us to focus less on worldly things and more on just being. Plenty of relaxation time guarantees we have the privacy to explore the hidden areas of our mind, and supportive yoga instruction teaches us the necessary meditation and breathing techniques that help us cope with life’s challenges.

  1. Make Life-Long Friends

According to a study, around 80-90 percent of people prefer going to yoga retreats alone.

Yoga retreats attract like-minded people from all corners of the world. Most senior citizens are keen to make friends in yoga communities, wanting to explore, learn and grow. This bond lays the groundwork for forging lasting friendships. Most importantly, we get to meet and talk to people who understand our perspective on life, and help us understand the root of our fears, ambitions and life situations. New friends can help us see things about us we can’t see on our own.

Better yet, they can act as a support system during old age —encouraging us to keep up the good work and implement the life hacks we learned on retreat.

  1. For The Love Of Yoga:

You are never too old to do yoga. If you want to try it out for the very first time, then a yoga retreat will give you the most memorable and impactful yoga experience there is. The efficacy of a yoga retreat lies in the fact that it takes you out of your comfort zone almost entirely. You will be at a new and majestic setting and will be guided into yogic exercises, even ones you previously thought you couldn’t perform because of the ‘oh so aching joints!’

  1. Forget about vacation management:

Having to find holiday inns, restaurants, and travel services alone can lead to fatigue and stress—sometimes to the point that a vacation is no longer enjoyable. This is where retreats come to the rescue, providing everything from travel to accommodation, to meals and sight-seeing. All are managed by the retreat coordinator, which allows us to enjoy ourselves without the burden of planning. And let’s be honest—we’ve been planning our entire life, it’s time to take a break.

For your next holiday, pick your favorite yoga retreat and let it transform you physically and emotionally. And there’s quite the variety as well! For instance, the Active Senior’s Yoga Getaway in California combines gentle, suitable-to-age yoga techniques with Mediterranean practices. Other options include vacationing with your favorite in-studio yoga teacher, or simply typing in “yoga retreats for seniors” into Google.

After all, these are the golden years. Right?  

Author Bio:

KamilKamil Riaz Kara is a travel enthusiast and writer. His favorite travel destinations include New York, Munich, & Vancouver. Visit Cosmosvacations for exploring beautiful and adventurist destinations around the world.

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Ep 60 – Practical Mindfulness

Joe shares practical mindfulness techniques to increase awareness throughout your day…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 60 – Joe shares practical mindfulness techniques to increase awareness throughout your day.

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Chronic Pain: How Yoga Helps.

Nobody wants to experience chronic pain or be diagnosed with a long-term illness…

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Marion Michele

Nobody wants to experience chronic pain or be diagnosed with a long-term illness.

But because life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, many people around the world are living with these conditions and more are diagnosed each day. A staggering 1.5 billion people worldwide are living with chronic pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. If you’re one of these people, you know intimately the torture of living each day in excruciating discomfort.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain, the simplest daily events can turn into heightened ordeals. You might wake up in the morning feeling sleep-deprived because you were tossing and turning all night long. Basic daily movements like walking or bathing can be excruciating at times. These ordeals tend to snowball, leading to more long-term pain, constant feelings of exhaustion, frustration and even depression and addiction.

Popular belief would have you thinking that chronic pain is just something you’ll have to suffer through for the rest of your life. And while every person’s pain condition is unique, there are many, many ways you can take your health into your own hands. Some of these options will require that you make lifestyle changes–for example, you may want to switch to a different diet or get some help handling daily tasks, like housecleaning or yard work. Some options require that you open your mind to treatments you may not have considered before, such as yoga.

This article will discuss just a small handful of the many techniques available for chronic pain management and pain relief.

Yoga & Pain Relief

Yoga, meditation, and breath-work go hand-in-hand, and can be essential for teaching us to breathe through our pain. As public speaker Scott Ginsburg notes, yoga can be helpful in teaching us to simply notice the pain, recognize it for what it is (without the need for an emotional connection to it), and then “send your breath where it hurts and ride it out.” This might be difficult for those who are new to yoga, but over time it becomes surprisingly relaxing.

According to Yoga International, yoga is becoming a more common treatment method for fibromyalgia, migraines and other conditions that cause chronic pain. In fact, there are now DVDs available specifically designed for using yoga to treat fibromyalgia and related illnesses. Popular yoga poses like child’s pose, savasana (corpse pose), cobra, or even simply laying flat on your back with your legs up the wall can provide pain relief for a variety of conditions.

Kundalini yoga can be especially helpful for those with chronic pain. If you experience chornic pain, you know it can be all-consuming. While the pain is obvious, it often isn’t clear where it comes from or what it’s made of. Kundalini is a practice that helps you become more self-aware, which can make it easier to identify unavoidable pain versus avoidable pain. When this becomes clear, you can mold your yoga practice around poses that bring relief.

Of course, before starting any new treatment, it is important to consult with your doctor first to make sure the treatment is right for you. Even with a gentle practice like yoga, there is always the potential to injure yourself. Together with your doctor, it can be possible to identify the source of your chronic pain. From there, a highly-trained certified yoga teacher can help make recommendations for gentle, restorative yoga poses that can specifically help your unique pain condition. Even if your doctor approves yoga for you, be sure to listen to your body – and remember to breathe!

As certified yoga teacher Liz Rosenblum of DoYouYoga says, “The goal here [with yoga] is to quiet the mind and find a bit of relief from your pain.”

If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain, yoga may certainly be worth a try. Perhaps the most important tip for pain management is this: try to stay positive. Having the right mindset will be crucial in trying new methods for healing the body.

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These Are The Best Methods of Self-Care.

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care…

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By Breanne Fleat

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care.

There are many ways to practice self-care. It can be as simple as making time for relaxation or hobbies, or we can take a more active approach by incorporating exercise into our daily routines. Personally, I enjoy using spirituality as a method of self-care. I don’t mean this in the religious sense; for me, spirituality is something that connects me with my center, or the core of my being.

If that sounds vague or farfetched, it actually has a strong basis in reality! What I’m actually doing is building a strong foundation of support, so that I’m able to replenish my energy and keep a strong baseline of happiness throughout my days. My three favorite activities for this type of self-care are yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Yoga

Yoga doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, especially when it comes to self-care. Whether it’s a full-length class or a few poses sprinkled here and there throughout the day, yoga has a way of awakening the body, addressing postural issues and reminding ourselves to take a deep breath when we need it.

I’m a big fan of Restorative Yoga, which focuses on healing and re-energizing the body. Some of my favorite practices incorporate downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana), child’s pose (Balasana), standing forward fold (Uttanasana), and cobra (Bhujangasana).

Yoga teaches participants to relax and let things go, which is usually what first comes to mind about this practice. But it also does so much more. Yoga taught me to listen to my body and respect its limits, which in turn reminded me to be kind to myself. Yoga also showed me that I’m much stronger than I think I am – you’ll be amazed, too, when you pull off that handstand! Yoga works so well that it’s been proven to be of great use in the workplace to deal with stress and heal the aches and pains from sitting all day!

Yoga’s list of benefits is long. The regular practice of body postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama), coupled with meditation, has an almost too-long list of physiological, psychological, and biochemical effects, even when compared to normal exercise. You can check out the full list of the plus points of these practices here.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of training the mind to notice its conditioned patterns and belief systems. Surely, this is a big task, but it’s really as simple as sitting down and being quiet for five minutes. There are hundreds of meditation exercises, from silent sitting to repeating mantras to counting the breath.

As an example, a simple exercise would be to sit down in a quiet spot and close your eyes. Don’t control your breath in any way – only focus on how it moves your ribs, your chest, your shoulders, and the rest of your body. Start with just trying this for a minute, then gradually increase the time you spend on it. I find that meditation is especially helpful in managing stress and helping me relax and forget my worries.

On a broader scale, studies have proven that meditation is great for treating and helping anxiety, even after years of practicing it. In the long run, meditation also has tons of physiological benefits, including improving brain function and powering the immune system. It works so well that it’s an effective method for treating chronic pain.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings as they arise. This has a host of benefits, not the least of which is that it clears up personal confusion about our needs, beliefs and desires. Mindfulness is similar to meditation, but is meant to be practiced during the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, as opposed to being a formal scheduled practice.

We can even practice mindfulness in groups! In group settings (like a work environment), mindfulness is incredibly useful as it encourages communication, empathy, and innovation. That’s probably why it’s so good for business –mindfulness and social awareness are important for modern organizations and businesses.

Mindfulness is often considered the key to self-care, as it involves being completely present in the moment and promotes mind-body resilience. It’s great for grounding or preventing dissociation, and two separate studies have shown that it can prevent depression relapse (check them out here and here!). In addition, multiple studies have proven that mindfulness works, whether it’s by being an aid to mental health or to reduce stress and promote physical health.

It can be slow starting, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easier to keep the ball rolling and see positive effects in your life. I like to focus on maintaining a positive outlook on life and taking each day one moment at a time. It can do wonders for mental health and productivity!

There’s always time for self-care

These are three practices I do to make self-care a priority in my life.

At first it may seem like there isn’t even time in the day to fit it all in, but these practices are actually designed to increase productivity, energy level and overall health and happiness, meaning we’ll get things done faster and more efficiently. It may take a period of adjustment, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

Ultimately, I find that there’s always time for self-care.

 

BreanneBreanne Fleat is chief editor at ProteinPromo.com . Created in 2016, ProteinPromo is keen on providing readers with nutrition and wellness hints and tips to lead a happier, healthier, fitter life. Find her on:

Twitter @Protein_Promo

Instagram: @ProteinPromo

& Facebook: ProteinPromo

 

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Meditation Podcast E59: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9

Emily delves into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9 regarding the chanting of AUM: the Word, the Idea, the Release…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 59: Tuesday evening meditation with Emily Ruth at Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio, San Diego. Emily delves into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9 regarding the chanting of AUM: the Word, the Idea, the Release.

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6 Surprising Benefits of Yoga

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak…

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By Sally Holland

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak of the many benefits that yoga brings to their lives – a greater sense of calmness, new opportunities for social interaction, a boost in self-confidence or enhanced physical fitness, and many more. But beyond our personal experience with yoga, there are many documented benefits for body, mind and spirit as well. The next time you speak to someone who doubts the extent to which yoga can change their life, mention these recent scientific findings:

1. Yoga reduces stress

Studies have shown that the regular practice of yoga reduces stress hormone levels, improves mood and battles fatigue, even in life-changing challenges such as breast cancer. Yoga is currently recommended for those who experience chronic stress and is a popular supplemental therapy in a wide range of settings, including rehabilitation centers and counseling sessions for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and eating disorders.

Peace and Serenity

2. Yoga encourages compassion for others and ourselves

In Buddhism, there is no distinction between compassion for others (being kind and understanding with someone, no matter the circumstances) and self-compassion (being kind and forgiving with ourselves). The yogic frame of mind involves self-acceptance, which elevates us to a higher plane than mere self-confidence. Confidence enables us to be proud when we achieve great things, yet self-compassion is more important because it encourages acceptance even when we have failed to meet our own or others’ standards.

3. Yoga can help with back pain

A recent study published in January 2017 in the Cochrane Library found that yoga may lead to a reduction of pain and increased functional ability in people with chronic, non-specific back pain. Other studies have shown it can help with chronic neck pain, and even migraines.

4. Yoga can help battle anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions on a global scale, and is characterized by the constant arousal of the fight of flight reaction. During an anxiety attack, individuals can feel dizzy, think they are having a heart attack, or have a full-blown panic attack which involves hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is caused by rapid inhalation (flooding one’s system with oxygen). This is why someone having a panic attack is often given a paper bag to breathe into. Yoga can help with this because it places great importance on controlled breathing (pranayama). This type of breathing instantly lowers the heart rate, thus being of great use to stop a panic attack from arising. An interesting report published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, shows that yoga helps those who suffer from anxiety, who also tend to worry constantly and get locked in patterns of negative thinking. These types of thoughts are often linked to the past or the future. Yoga is very much a mindful activity, which involves ‘being in the here and now’, focusing on aspects such as breathing and the correct performance of asanas.

5. Yoga can help stave off depression

One study shows that Sudarshan Kriya yoga (which is centered around breathing) can alleviate symptoms of severe depression in individuals who do not respond well to antidepressant medication.

6. Yoga can help with arthritis

Studies have shown that yoga is safe and effective for people with arthritis, bringing significant improvement in mood and symptoms. In one study carried out by scientists at John Hopkins Medicine, it was found that eight weeks of yoga classes improved the physical and mental health of people with knee and rheumatoid arthritis. Compared to a control group which did not practice yoga, those who attended the sessions had a 20% improvement in pain, mood, physical functions and vitality! They were also able to increase their walking speed and complete more physical tasks at work and at home. Chair yoga in particular is very useful for those with limited mobility, since it provides them with the support and sense of safety.

A considerable body of scientific research has focused on the many benefits of yoga. Over the past decade, many more findings have been made. These include yoga’s ability to stimulate brain function, improve the quality of life of people with certain types of heart disease, encourage mindful eating, reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia and so much more.

If you have never tried yoga before, discover how it can change your own life after just a few sessions.

 

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7 Dos and Don’ts Of Juicing

Juicing can be an efficient and powerful way to get a dose of nutrients…

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by Or Maman

Juicing can be an efficient and powerful way to get a dose of nutrients – particularly when you struggle with a demanding timeline or schedule that prevents proper meal planning. When you start the day with a glass of fresh juice and a delicious breakfast, you make sure that you instantly get access to all the wonderful vitamins and minerals your body needs!

What’s more, certain fruits and vegetables can help to boost your performance for the rest of the day, helping to enhance your focus, improve your energy levels, and leave you feeling amazing for longer.

Whether you choose to juice at home or stop by your local juice bar, how do you make sure that you’re getting the most from it? Follow these simple dos and don’ts.

1.    Do Follow Recipes

7dos2

A glass of fresh juice is one of the best things you can consume each day. Not only are they good for you, but these wonderful drinks are tasty too – you just need to make sure that you add the right amounts of fruits and vegetables to create the right taste. Remember that the ingredients you choose need to mix well, and although there’s nothing wrong with making up your own recipes, you might find that it’s a lot easier to follow existing juicing recipes for weight loss and nutrition when you’re just getting started.

2.    Don’t Use the Same Produce Every Time

When you start to learn more about juicing, you’ll discover that certain items, such as beetroots, kale, and bitter gourd are some of the best vegetables for offering a huge dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and all feature a low-calorie intake. While drinking plenty of these ingredients can be great for your health, remember that variety is still important, and you don’t want to get stuck in a rut of consuming the same produce every day. Try out different recipes and additions to shake things up.

3.    Do Go Organic

7dos3

The most important aspect of juicing is finding a way to get healthy substances into your body. Organic vegetables are grown with a focus on preserving as much of the natural nutrition that fresh produce can offer as possible, and they lack the chemicals and preservatives that are often used with non-organic ingredients. If you really want to get the most out of your juicing experience, then you should choose organic every time, and leave the pesticides outside!

4.    Don’t Just Let It Sit

One of the biggest benefits of juicing is that it’s a quick and easy process. You can drink on the go, which means that you don’t have to leave your freshly made concoctions sitting on the kitchen counter or in the fridge. Research shows that the longer juice is left to sit, the more it oxidizes, causing nutrients to degrade and reducing the number of benefits you’ll get from your glass. At the very most, you can leave your juice over night, but you’ll need to make sure that you use an airtight container, and add a squeeze of lemon for a natural preservative.

5.    Do Drink Juice on an Empty Stomach

If you’re using juice to help you lose weight, then you should always drink it on an empty stomach. Not only will the juice help to kick-start your metabolism so that you can begin burning calories instantly, but it will also be easier for your body to absorb all the vitamins and nutrients in your blood stream. Try to wait at least thirty minutes after juicing before eating a meal.

6.    Don’t Use Juice Instead of Whole Produce

7dos4

Just because juicing is a great way to get fresh produce into your system doesn’t mean that you should swap your daily veggies for juices. Consuming organic juices is a wonderful way to add some extra health to your day, but it’s not a replacement for a good hearty meal, unless you’re using a specific cleanse.

7.    Consume Juice Carefully

Finally, as quick and convenient as juicing can be, it’s worth remembering that you don’t necessarily have to gulp your entire drink down as soon as you make it. Take your time on a morning to sip your juice and enjoy the flavors. After all, juices aren’t just for health – they can taste amazing too. Plus, taking your time will help to reduce the impact on your digestive system, giving your body more time to absorb the vitamins and minerals available.

These guidelines ensure mindful and intelligent choices so that we can absorb all of the many benefits of juicing. What’s your favorite juice?

 

 

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3 Tips to Keep You Healthy Throughout the Year

We know our fitness and health should be a priority year-round, but

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We know our fitness and health should be a priority year-round, but it’s all too easy to make excuses not to work out in winter when it’s too cold or summer when it’s too hot. The truth is, when we are consistent with our eating habits and working out, the healthier we will be. If you’re looking for ways to be more consistent throughout the year with your health and fitness routines, these three tips will help you achieve your goals.

1. Work Out at Home

If the weather is a deterrent for exercise, take the weather out of the equation by working out at home more often, especially during the winter and summer. If you’ve been hesitant because you think you need to buy expensive gym equipment, you’ll be happy to know there are only a few basic items you should have and that expensive machines are not necessary for getting a good workout. For the most part, all you need is your body and a plan.

You can do pushups, crunches, squats, work your abs, and sculpt your legs and rear end. Add some weights when you want to work out your arms in different ways. Either purchase a dumbbell set or use items from around the house such as canned vegetables and water jugs. Cardio and stretching are easy to do at home, too. You can do jumping jacks, jog in place, use your steps for repetitions to tone your legs, dance, and do yoga right from home.

If you don’t think you’ll know how to develop a routine, look on YouTube for some routines you can follow along with in the comfort and privacy of your home. Many fitness videos range from beginner to advanced, and you’ll feel like you’re in a class once you start moving along with the video. Some people find that setting an alarm on their phones and sticking to a fitness routine at a certain time each day helps with accountability.

2. Work Out with a Friend

One of the reasons people don’t stick to a health and fitness routine throughout the year is that they don’t hold themselves accountable. If you have this problem, start working out with a friend. Not only will your workouts be more fun, but you’ll stick to your plan when you schedule time for it and know that you need to show up not only for yourself but also for your partner. Friends also make good spotters when you head to the gym for lifting day, and they can add a friendly face to an otherwise intimidating setting.

Sometimes, having a workout buddy is beneficial simply for the motivation factor. When you feel like eating a piece of cheesecake, ditching your workout, or giving up altogether, your friend can help you reset your intention. And you can do the same for her.

Your workout buddy can be of the four-legged variety, too. Many people find that walking their dog is a good form of exercise that also helps reduce stress. Playing with and walking your dog increases your oxytocin level, which helps you relax. If you add a vigorous walk to the mix, you also increase your endorphin levels and feel happier. Walk your dog around your neighborhood, take your dog hiking, or plan a play date at the local dog park to spend more time with your dog. If your dog is athletic, you can roller blade, skate or bike with them too.

3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits

The key to eating healthier is to make it a habit. Now that the holidays have passed and you aren’t tempted by Thanksgiving meals and Christmas cookies and treats, it’s easier to start developing healthy eating habits that will carry you through the year and next holiday season.

A helpful tip for creating new habits is to remain true to portion sizes rather than completely giving up your most loved foods. When you eliminate favorite foods from your diet, you are more likely to binge on them because you feel deprived. Another tip for staying on track includes making a plan for your weekly meals each Sunday to help yourself stay on track instead of being tempted to order a pizza at the last minute after a late night of work.

It is possible to implement health and fitness routines throughout the year to help you consistently stay on track toward your goals. Once you develop healthy routines, they will become habits, and you’ll be more likely to stick to working out at home, working out with a friend, and eating healthy all year.

by Paige Johnson

Image via Pixabay by stevepb

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The Yoga Poses That Relieved My Back Pain

Are you experiencing consistent pain in your lower back?…

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Are you experiencing consistent pain in your lower back? What about in your upper back? Maybe even both? Trust me, you are not alone. I was one of those people. I had a bulging disc in my lower back. Which is when one of your intervertebral discs has weakened and lost its shape. It caused me tremendous pain. I tried many treatments, but the only one that offered extended relief was yoga.

These are the poses that made the biggest impact in my recovery:

Child’s Pose

Start on all fours, with your arms reaching out in-front of you with your head down. Then, slowly sit back so your glutes are resting above your heels, but not touching your heels. Hold this position for up to 10 breaths. Repeat for a good soothing stretch.

Cat and Cow Pose 

Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Then, slowly press up your spine, arching your back into the cat pose. After 2-3 breaths in this position, slowly scoop your spine in, pressing your shoulder blades back and lifting your head into the cow pose. Hold this position for 2-3 breaths. Then, repeat this process 5-7 times. 

Legs up the Wall

Start by laying on the ground with your glutes near the wall. Slowly, start sliding your feet up the wall until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. This pose is best saved for your final pose and you will hold this pose for 5-10 minutes.

I hope these poses help you as much as they helped me. But remember, to start slowly and if you are experiencing pain stop immediately.

Jayson Goetzby Jayson Goetz

Jayson believes there are many solutions to your back pain. Having personally suffered from back pain he has tried them all. He started writing in hope of sharing his experiences with those who are looking for help.

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Soften and Enjoy

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for…

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by Courtney Yezzi

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for the benefit of all beings. The effort, thought and energy we put into our practice first creates a positive impact on our life force and then goes out into the universe to create a positive impact on the world around us. Isn’t that amazing concept!?

Up the Vibration

If this is the case wouldn’t we want to practice next to the most positive, fluid thinking, relaxed, intelligent yogis in the room to catch that vibe first? Wouldn’t we want to be those yogis who exude life force energy and a peacefulness that UP’s the vibration in the room? Sure we all would and we all do want that for ourselves and want that for others. So how? Simply, let go and receive.

Relax and Receive

One thing I emphasis in my classes to help get into that flow state of UPing the vibe and generating positive life force is to soften. So many students come into the yoga room with very serious faces or rigid bodies ready for a good workout or to beat their overactive minds into submission for an hour. That tension and mindset can be palpable to others in the room and for sure is palpable to the formless spirit inside. When students are taking themselves too seriously in class I will ask that we all take a satisfying breath in and soften the outer form so the formlessness inside can start to move and enjoy itself. To allow the magical and medicinal properties of the asana practice to take over and move through us all. To allow the over tight, overworked and unnecessary tensors to relax and receive the potency of the practice.

Let Go

Many more of the magical benefits of asana will show up for us when we let go stop taking ourselves so seriously and soften ourselves to happiness and even silliness at times so energy can flow through us with ease. As much as asana is about concentration and meditation it is about enjoying to the fullest capacity the time you have set aside to befriend yourself and learn yourself anew. This is one way we can up our vibration and send it out into the world.

 

Courtney YezziCourtney Yezzi has taught at Pilgrimage since 2008. She teaches the full array of classes from our power classes to our gentle classes. She understands yoga as a tool on the great journey to self-awakening. Courtney is an inspired yogi who is constantly focusing on sharing her highest with her students.

“To my shining spirit and the shining spirits of others who I will meet on this path. May our hearts beat joyfully together as we journey forward.”

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Simple Living, Through Simple Wakefulness

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing…

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by Greg Steorts

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing. Those among us who find it to be a generally easy thing to bounce out of bed like an energized toddler on Christmas morning, might be in the minority. But the form of ‘wakefulness’ this essay is about, is not actually the sort I reference above, though the above example serves as a fitting metaphor for the brand of wakefulness I’ll address here. ‘Wakefulness’ as I intend to mean it here, is being defined as a product or result of employing one’s own capacity for calm critical thinking, mindful observation and one’s own capacity to simply feel. While these may at first sound like simple things, a great many of us have allowed these capacities to atrophy in ourselves, to one degree or another, and I propose that modern culture in the developed world has become a key factor in the facilitating of our inability these days to simply stop and take occasional conscious notice of the otherwise unbroken chain of moments of which our lives are comprised.

Little Room for Individual Interpretation

We have become, in a very real sense, products of the culture in which we live; where dominant social and environmental prompts shape our general responses to the stimuli around us. The official definitions of things and how we’re ‘supposed’ to relate to them, is so often laid out for us in bold type and prominent voice, leaving little room for individual interpretation; at least the sort that might be granted mainstream credibility. Media input offers itself as a prime example of this. It masterfully short-circuits the individual’s own inclination to draw their own conclusions, both boldly and subtly laying-out the parameters within which the subject, article or position is being slickly sold to us. Culture’s architects, (e.g. Madison Avenue, all facets of mainstream media; peddlers of information, social memes and pop entertainments, et al), are best served by a populace that unquestioningly partakes of, and assimilates its manufactured concepts and wares with little to no consideration as to both the overtly and passively inferred philosophies or positions within which they are framed. Culture’s main thrust, after all, is to encourage us to climb onboard the ‘ride du jour,’ whatever it may be, for this is what keeps the wheels of industry rolling.

Disdain of Culture’s Offered Trends

The space of wakefulness I refer to here, and the appreciation for the simplicity it can ultimately spawn, is not one that requires any disdain of culture’s offered trends, products or promoted philosophies, but rather only the presence of mind to simply allow one’s conscious awareness in relationship to them, to reside within the deepest recesses of their own moment-to-moment space of feeling, independent of culture’s peddled stimuli, medications, and all manner of distractions and ‘anesthesias’ (figurative and literal) which serve to pull us away from our own sense of self within the hive society. The ‘simplicity through wakefulness’ I’m speaking of here, is one achieved by the act of simply being willing to unplug occasionally (or better yet, regularly) from culture’s ceaseless flow of stimulus, long enough to allow oneself to truly feel whatever it is that may lie beneath the stratums of content culture so eagerly fills our minds and heart space with. For many of us, even the notion of a ‘heart space’ may ring as something too esoteric to be meaningful, so long have we been disconnected from it by our longstanding immersions into the sensory stimulations to which I refer. The ceaseless and torrential flow of input has become a boisterous child that will not be ignored, we its negligent and enabling parents. Living in the ‘information age,’ as we now do, with technology and its devices serving as the virtual hub upon which our day-to-day lives spin, it has effectively served to dislocate us from a more visceral, human-to-human connection, from our own sense of individualism, as well as a lack of connection to oneself.

Meditators

Sitting Quietly with Do Distractions

No doubt about it, it is not fun to feel uncomfortable emotions, and it is always an easy thing to bury a low-current hum of discomfort with the distraction of a movie, a phone call, a video game, or to check-in with our online social network of choice to see how many people ‘like’ us. Sitting quietly with no distractions has become an alien concept for us, and the notion of simplicity too has become a thing of virtually no relevance. The rapid-fire images of TV programming, commercials and film content, have entrained our minds to overlook, even shun, the simple and uncomplicated, in favor of that which grabs attention with authority. It has become all too easy to look right past open spaces and the relevance of calm reflection. Take notice of how every television commercial and program utilizes an almost universal presentational format; a rapid-fire-flow of incessantly-shifting images. Gone is the camera’s lingering gaze upon the talking head or scenery. Instead we are confronted with flash-fire images that linger for no more than a second or two, and then make way for the next, and the next,… this is nothing less than mental entrainment, teaching us to expect and tolerate only quick sound bytes and millisecond images, to forego focused and prolonged attention on anything or anyone.

Instant Gratification and Perpetual Stimulus Now

We seek instant gratification and perpetual stimulus now, and if we have to spend even a few moments with ourselves and our deeper undercurrent of emotions in a space of quiet, it is considered a nearly intolerable thing, though few bother to articulate this, for to do so would require the lost mindfulness I here refer to. What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have our phone screens to gaze into while standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, or wandering a shopping mall, or riding an elevator? We’ve allowed ourselves to become trained to loathe a calm space of mind. I can palpably feel the cashier’s frustration in the air, as he or she is forced to stall their own motion and wait for me to count out my change, preferring instead to simply add more to my already burdening collection of coinage and have me move on so that they may serve the next in line.

Mind you, I don’t speak as one completely liberated from a state of impatience, for I feel it on the road when I am driving; too frequently hostile to the notion of simply being patient with the person ahead of me who I deem ‘too slow’ in the executing of their turn. I know what it’s like to feel in a hurry for no good reason, to feel those uncomfortable feelings of an unspecified nature and want to cover them over with a moment’s distraction. But I have grown even more uncomfortable with the frenetic vibration our culture imposes upon us as a fact of life now, and I clearly recognize the dissonance this flood of sensory stimuli is causing us in our ability to simple be, without doing, to actually listen to the person who is talking to us, rather than merely prepping our next words in our minds as they speak.

Plant Light

The Regular Practice of Meditation

I’ve taken to the regular practice of meditation over the last few months, and in so doing have gained a stark awareness of the connection between an endlessly whirring mind and the emotional state of dis-ease to which it gives birth. I have come to appreciate the spaces in between the stimuli, the capacity to become present to the silence in which all noise resides; that universal context within which all of life unfolds.
Take a moment and truly listen to it, deeply. You might have to search at first, but it is there. Can you hear it? You will recognize it because it has its own sound; not dissimilar to the super ultra-high-pitched tonal frequency heard in those hearing tests we’ve taken. Now become aware of your breathing, allowing yourself as you do, to get in touch with the feeling within your own body; it’s aches and pains, its fatigue and weight, its pockets of stress or muscular constriction and where they reside in your physicality. Keep breathing as you explore it; deeply, slowly. Just observe the incessant flow of random thoughts parading through your mind as you do this, but just let them all pass by, without clinging to any of them. Now feel your emotional space. If you had to articulate where in your body its epicenter resides, where would you point to? Are you feeling relaxed, or is there a current of anxiety there? Breathe as you feel this. Allow yourself to truly feel your inner space of being. Let whatever is there move through you with your every breathe, taking conscious note of what it is like to feel. I promise, it won’t destroy you. In fact, it will relax you, and it will release you from the grip of stress if you do allow yourself to feel it. Practice this regularly, and you will notice your points of focus and priorities start to shift, in both subtle and profound ways. You will become aware of how certain stimulus informs your emotional state, and if you remain committed to exploring those inner spaces of thought, feeling and emotion, you will regain your appreciation of calm space and simplicity again, and you will learn to appreciate your own individual sense of self that’s likely been buried beneath the vibratory resonance of the ‘bee hive’ – that virtually incessant voice of modern culture. What I am inviting you to here, is a process of exploration, not a singular event. So be patient with it, and remember; none of culture’s stimulus is going with you when you depart this world, but it’s possible that your sense of self just might.

G.

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block…

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

An Interview with Grahak Cunningham from Australia by Sujantra

 

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block in Queens, New York. Founded by Sri Chinmoy, it is the world’s longest foot race. Runners are given 18 hours a day, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, for 51 days, to run a minimum of 60 miles a day to complete the distance. Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga asked Australian motivational speaker, author and four time finisher of the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, Grahak Cunningham, three questions.

grahak1
 

Why do you run in this event it?

I often ask myself the same question when I am having a difficult day! My running career up to the 3100 was pretty uneventful. I started running when I was 19. I progressed from shorter distances to ten-kilometre races to half-marathon and marathon events. I entered my first ultra on a whim (47 miles) in 2005 aged 28, which was the day after I had done a marathon. It wasn’t easy but after finishing I started to think about multi-day running.

“If we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.”

I heard about the 3100 and watched a friend finish. Inspired, I knew I had to do it one day and consoled myself with the ridiculous thought ‘I did a 47 mile race and a marathon the next day. If I had to I could probably do that all over again, across a number of days.’ I basically shelved the idea of running the 3100 but then Sri Chinmoy, perhaps noticing my interest inwardly to do the race, asked me a few times if I had run the 3100. When a Master asks something like that he is doing a few things: indicating you have the capacity, suggesting you would benefit tremendously spiritually if you do it and of course helping you inwardly every step of the way if you do decide to compete. I prepared, planned, trained and entered at age 30. Finishing the race was a real turning point in my life. It showed me that it really is possible to go beyond our limits—if we just try. I think if we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.

grahak2
 

Do you do Yoga?

I do a lot of breathing, meditation and visualization techniques in the race so that for me is yoga. Often the runners will do different Asana’s to stretch, de-stress or get rid of tightness and soreness. Inspired by them I did try it more and more. I am actually injured at the moment so I have taken it up seriously. I love it and despite being injured, yoga has made me probably the most flexible I have ever been. My favorites are the shoulder stand, head stand and cobra to dog.

You have written a book, Running Beyond the Marathon. Can you tell us about the book?

The book aims to share some of the things I have learnt along the way to completing the 3100 mile race four times. The book helps show the connection to the spiritual and the physical and meditation and running. Hopefully it illustrates to the reader that we can achieve anything in life. Here is an excerpt: “Life itself is a challenge and no achievement worth striving for, whether it is athletic, career-based or personal, is going to come easily to anyone. First we have to work hard and only then can we get the reward and the feeling of achievement that comes with it. If life were easy, if we were handed everything on a silver platter, there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

“It is not human nature
To enjoy what we get
With no effort.”
-Sri Chinmoy

 
Completing 3100 miles on foot is tough. To cover the immense distance, to conquer negative thoughts, pain, doubts and despair, takes inner fortitude and a desire to extend yourself. You have to willingly go outside your comfort zone and do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, for those who want it to be, is a spiritual journey of self-discovery, of reaching towards our limitless potential.

grahak3
 
Every step was taking me closer and closer towards my goal. The feeling I got from bettering and improving myself, reaching miles way beyond my previous personal best, far outweighed the physical and mental difficulties I faced. Soldiering forwards through days five and six my overall total was 342 miles. An average well below what I needed to finish. It had been a hard slog to get to the start. The hours of preparation and thousands of kilometres training maybe wasn’t enough.”

Thanks for talking to us today Grahak, your adventures are a real inspiration!
 
beyond_marathonOne of Australia’s best motivational speakers, keynote speakers and performance trainers, Perth resident Grahak Cunningham is an ordinary Australian who dared to dream. He book Running Beyond the Marathon is available on Amazon.com.

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A Dreamer’s Dream

I came to earth as thirsting soul, to pitch my wishing-coin into this matrix pool…

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‘A Dreamer’s Dream’

by Greg Steorts

Big Tree Big

 I came to earth as thirsting soul, to pitch my wishing-coin into this matrix pool, offering my cellular contribution to those myriad interference-patterns and high-pitched frequencies which frustrate the crazy metronome of tick-tock constancy.  I carry this mad torch for truth, drawing the occasional prickly glance beneath knitted brow, kindly offending those ‘fine sensibilities’ so dear to the pillars of dust-laden culture.  I still secretly dare to nurture those long-held fantasies too often denied, those smooth warm daydreams conjured by the classroom window, as the teachers talk their humdrum spells.  I feel that luscious and lovingly furious force of Nature, holding Herself patiently at bay in the wings, looking upon us all with such a dazzling gaze.  I feel that exotic species of metaphysical intervention, teasing to descend from above and ascend from within, threatening to explode as Divinity’s orgasm into the torrid fields of matter, as a fierce meteor of white hot Light, promising to displace all fluid time from this infinitesimal pond of quantum particles we all call ‘home.’  Then I stop and catch myself, remembering again, as I have before, that I’ve merely fallen asleep beneath this friendly ancient tree, and dreamt a dreamer’s dream of otherness; a world that never really was. 

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT: Part 8 Hope

My maternal grandfather spent his last days in a nursing home…

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HOPE

 

My maternal grandfather spent his last days in a nursing home. It was a very nice place, comparatively. (Years ago I went to one run by the Social Services of the City of New York where you had to be buzzed in through a metal gate and on my way out a desperate old crone grabbed me around the leg and started pleading, “Get me out of here!”) Still, unless you have totally lost it, you know that when you do finally get to leave one of those types of establishments, it will be feet-first. And when I said good-bye to my grandfather, on what would turn out to be our final visit, I said, “Just take it one day at a time, Pop-Pop,” and his eyes suddenly lit up and with a wry smile he replied, “Yes, two days at a time in a place like this could kill you.” Then we had a good laugh; a nice way to end.

If there is such a thing as a last bastion of hope, it can often be found in institutions like these where I have also sometimes seen some old geezer, with a fierce look of determination on his face but no particular place to go, furiously lurching his walker down the hall. It’s inspiring but at the same time heartbreaking. (I’m sure that if you tried something like that in that New York City nursing home they’d make you watch as they smashed it to bits. Or better yet, would make you destroy it yourself, while they stood around and laughed.)
 

The Persistence of Hope

 
Even survivors of the death camps during the Nazi’s Holocaust, the closest thing to Dante’s “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here” Inferno that mankind has ever deliberately devised, report on the persistence of hope. I once read the recollections of a prisoner who said that the guards used to wrap their overstuffed sandwiches in pages of the Torah and as they ate their lunch in front of the starving inmates, tear them up and throw the fragments of parchment to the ground. But the Jews would sneak out of their confinements at night and collect and reassemble the pieces as best they could and by reading out what they could, kept their hope alive.

The great American poet Emily Dickinson had some truly insightful things to say—as she often does on a variety of subjects—about hope, especially its tenacious nature:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune—without the words,
And never stops at all, . . .
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest Sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

While we can only pretend to know another’s impetuses, can for the most part only project our own, I’ve always imagined the “nun of Amherst”—who had more or less abandoned the idea of ever being published (she pursued it only once or twice during her entire life and without success) along with its attendant enterprise, self-promotion (“how public like a frog”)—wondering why it was that she could not overcome the hope that she, or her work anyway, might be more widely known; that though she did not feed it “a crumb,” this hunger for some morsel of recognition lived on in her with such vigor. (Along with, I imagine, other longings as well: for love, for God’s Grace, even for the return of the bees.)

Out of this World

 
Emily seems to have had a very active inner life. In its advanced stage this is a mystical condition where one is in a constant state of contemplation to the degree that they are often very content to be by themselves, not only because they do not need anyone else, but even if they occasionally do, they know that others will misjudge and misunderstand them and they really can’t (or don’t want to have to) explain themselves (they could write immortal poetry, I suppose). There is an expression, “out of this world,” which describes this condition or “in the world but not of it,” which describes it more accurately. And it is the “in the world” part that seems to vex even those who are quite happy, even overjoyed, to be left alone. For it seems that as long as you live here on Earth you will hope for something more, yearn for some greater influence or even affluence. It’s in the atmosphere; you breathe it in.

Along these lines, we could even ask ourselves why God, assuming He is infinite, immortal, and eternal, would need a universe? Why would He, too, not be content with what He has but still need more? And by extension, why would a human being who was living in a state of perfect bliss, even one who was God-conscious, not be satisfied? And I believe it comes down to this: There is always another possibility not only for us but especially for the Infinite.
 

Lamborghini

By No machine-readable author provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain.

We could think of this in terms of our own lives—of the way we’re not satisfied with a modest, comfortable home or a functional car but still want a mansion and/or a Maserati, except that these are material needs and we are now wondering what would happen if we were free from all worldly wants. Would we still yearn for something more?

The Creator has now authored a nearly infinite number of galaxies, each of which has hundreds of millions of stars and planets and other celestial bodies (and presumably, trillions upon trillions of life-forms) scattered about. This is quite an accomplishment. Yet, He seems interested that His creation might also become conscious; not only self-aware but God-aware. Indeed, He seems to have this as a further, perhaps even ultimate aim.
 

God is Peace, Love, and Joy

 
Therefore, we might imagine that even if we had managed to transcend our present, limited consciousness, to have drilled down to our blissful essence and wanted for nothing, the universe might ask us to share our discoveries with the rest of humanity. That spreading the news that God is peace, love, and joy might be in keeping with the Creator’s own goals, making so-called self-promotion for someone who has attained this state, cosmically condoned; divinely hoped for.

In other words, Emily, if you have something good, uplifting and inspiring to tell the world, there is no reason to beat yourself up about it; no reason to consider it egotistical if you want to share something wonderful with the rest of us for it may not be your personal ambition that is urging you on, but divine unrest: God’s own hope within you.

 

 

Look for the next topic, INTUITION, next time! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 06: FAITH

As long as the good times stay that way, we don’t even think about asking God for help…

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FAITH

 
As long as the good times stay that way, we don’t even think about asking God for help, since we are doing fine on our own. Then, when we hit the inevitable rough patch, the best prayer we can muster is: “Lord, I don’t know if You are real or not and even if You are real, I don’t know if You can hear me or not. And even if You can hear me, I know that You probably have a lot of other, more important things to do than to listen to me, especially since I haven’t talked to You, even thought of You, since Granny went overboard in that shuffleboard accident. And, being upset, I may have taken your name in vain, as they say, and more than just once or twice and naturally I still feel really, really bad about it. But if You are real and can hear me and can spare a couple of minutes and be a man about what happened there in the heat of the moment (Did you have to send the freakin’ sharks?!!) I need to tell you that I’m in a horrible mess. Okay, it’s my own fault, which I already know so I don’t need a big lecture, but what I really do need and pronto is some major help . . .”

Not exactly a Psalm of David.

David-Icon

By 18 century icon painter – Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia, Public Domain. (Via Wikipedia)

When our problems miraculously solve themselves and practically overnight, at least we do the right thing and give credit where credit is due, offering thanks to our own awesome cleverness.
 

Life Here on Earth

 
Because life here on Earth almost seems to favor godlessness, with multitudes of nonbelievers doing fabulously well; there seems to be no urgency to decide whether or not to have spiritual faith, to believe in God. Then when life’s seemingly insurmountable problems like death, the Big One, start knocking on our door, we are forced to reconsider the issue. But it doesn’t have to be so worrisome, as Pascal’s Wager, the famous philosophical argument, illustrates: “Better to believe in God,” it postulates, “for if you are wrong and there is no God, then no harm, whereas if you do not believe, and there is a God, then you could be cruisin’ for a bruisin’.”

PYO

(I paraphrase, of course.)

Much of life is unknown. In fact, you could say that practically all of life is unknown. We sometimes say of someone, “They don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” which is certainly the case for 99.9 percent of the natural world and billions of our fellow human beings as well. And even when we do know, even when there’s food in the fridge and money in the bank, many dangers still lurk about menacingly. So understandably, we would like to believe that we are not alone in our struggles, that someone else or something else is as concerned about our wellbeing as we are. And this is where faith, as it is most commonly practiced, enters the picture.
 

Faith Enters the Picture

 
Yes, faith in this form is the belief that someone watches over us, loves us and cares that we do well; that something in the universe is on our side, assisting us in our struggle.
 
Screenshot from IMAX® 3D movie Hidden Universe showing the Helix Nebula in infrared
 
Animals know that they must be proactive, even ruthlessly so, in order to survive. That they must not only fight and kill to eat but even fight and kill preemptively, simply to avoid being eaten. They are not, like us, thinking that if they behave virtuously, if they are good and kind, then some higher power will be pleased enough with them to see that they are well taken care of. An exception, perhaps, being the family dog who—though he should by now trust that his bowl will be filled every night; should have some faith that his master still cares enough about him to take care of him—can never be absolutely sure and so remains fearful that his next meal may be his last; that the caring may stop. And should his master show any displeasure, he becomes very anxious that he will be put out; be made to suffer and perhaps perish.

Because our fundamental problem is also survival and survival always tries to avoid suffering—not only because it is uncomfortable but also is often a prelude to our demise—we, too, look to a higher power to save us, especially in times when our wellbeing is threatened. And much like the character at the beginning of this essay, we make impulsive appeals to a higher power when we find that our own resources, even those potentially available to us (the rich brother-in-law, for example) have become exhausted or are now simply sick and tired of us.
 

Struggling to Survive

 
I’m not saying that all believers, all those who have faith that there is a higher, benevolent power lovingly watching over them, are dogs, but rather that because life is in an epic struggle against death, it naturally seeks every survival advantage and will pray to a higher power if it believes (has faith) it is in a position to help. And in our human case, will further believe that the higher power it appeals to is the Ultimate One, is the immortal Creator of life itself, and therefore if pleased with us (okay, like the dog’s master) will grant us an eternally blissful life. (Or if displeased, will condemn us to suffer, also eternally, it is believed.)
 
jetski-655554_1280
 
Every cell in us, indeed, every atom, is struggling to survive and notwithstanding the fact that everything in the physical universe is mortal (even the photon, the building block of light itself, born at the beginning and as old as the universe itself, will ultimately perish in creation’s final act), all kinds of notions are entertained and to the degree that they appeal to our survival instincts, are more likely to be believed. Even to the extent that if someone is certain that his God has given him, and him exclusively, eternal life, and someone else comes along who is certain that his God has given him, and him exclusively, eternal life, both will feel they have the divine right to fight, even to slay their adversary. That’s how powerful and potentially aggressive this survival instinct is!
 

One Immortal Life

 
So while religious faith, the way it’s most commonly practiced, is often nothing more than the belief that our beliefs and only our beliefs will give us a more fortunate life as well as bestow upon us a unique immortality, there is another type of faith: the simple belief that life, or the Life, is conscious, loving, and aspires in and through us to goals which are good. And further, that It will assist us in our struggle because we are in a position to assist It in Its Struggle.

That there is only one immortal Life in the universe and all are part and parcel of this one Life and our struggle is therefore Its Struggle, is the tenet at the heart of this type of faith.

 

Look for the next topic, Gratitude, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 05: ENLIGHTENMENT

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God…

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ENLIGHTENMENT

 

God and His Heavenly Kingdom Are Within You

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable. If, however, you started reading here, believing that, being the title chapter, it would be, like, the best part ever, then I wish to tell you that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable and in order for you to find out whether the “best part ever” thing is true, you will have to read a little more. Sorry.

When we think of enlightenment, we immediately think of the Buddha, or maybe Keanu Reeves, who portrayed him in 1993’s Little Buddha, and that would be unfortunate. For while both the movie and he, of course, looked good; steeped in the cadence of surf speak, of “Dude, that’s totally gnarly,” Keanu’s performance was sort of bogus. So much so that on the night I went, when he delivered the line “Come my disciples, eat my rice,” it reached critical mass and the entire theater just cracked up, for suddenly we were watching Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (his signature role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) Under the Bodhi Tree. But if you thought that his portrayal was, like, okay, the most amped ever, then I apologize and all right, the crowd that night was, like, okay, a bunch of squid-lips and stuff.

Eternally Self-Transcending

Anyway, one commonality in the movie and the Buddha’s legend, if you are at all familiar with it, is the presence of numerous sadhus (“ascetics”) sometimes naked (try not to look down), who, when they aren’t being total dweebs, are meditating.

In Essay #3, Consciousness, we learned that 5000 years ago the Rishis in the Indus Valley discovered meditation and employed it for self-discovery. It’s important to note, however, that they did not just sit down, go deep within, and immediately arrive at their own highest height. (Or, in truth, ever absolutely arrive, this ultimate goal being eternally self-transcending. Whoa! Epic, Dude!)

Still, there are landmarks along the way and enlightenment is one such signpost and depending upon whom you talk to, perhaps even the most advanced. Though some will say that enlightenment is a misnomer; that when Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha it was God-realization that he attained because enlightenment is more like a higher state of illumination and, as such, actually lower than complete God-consciousness. And those persons are probably those same naked sadhus who, unable to meditate twenty-four hours a day, argue about things like this mostly, I suppose, just to pass the time or maybe to try and take their minds off the fact that they are so freakin’, tired, hungry, and cold.

Higher States of Consciousness

But for our purposes and those of newbies everywhere, we will simply construct two categories: higher states of consciousness that you can descend from and those from which you cannot descend. When Siddhartha, seated at the foot of the Bodhi tree in Sri Chinmoy’s play, Siddhartha Becomes the Buddha, declares, “Here I shall realize the Truth. Until I put an end to sorrow, I shall not move from this spot,” it is this latter condition that he seeks.

In our popular song “Amazing Grace,” we find the line, “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see,” and also “to save a wretch like me,” and as a song about redemption and the beautiful and rarefied experience of God’s grace, it reverberates to our very core. But we also know that even if we are lucky enough to have this experience, it’s still also pretty easy to fall from grace; to “wretch” once more, so to speak. Which is why this experience of becoming aware of God’s compassionate presence within one’s self is considered, in mystical circles, an “awakening” and thought of as a first step. Not in any disparaging or condescending way (sadhus take note), for mysticism, like the religions, also recognizes that the inspiration to set forth on our quest, the source of this grace, is God Himself.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too. Then God touches our hearts with His Grace and suddenly we wake up and begin seeking Him—an absolutely profound and totally essential experience, for if God does not call us to Him we would remain lost; wandering in the desert. But because mysticism believes that He is calling us in order that we might begin the process of reuniting ourselves with Him, finally and absolutely, it feels that this awakening is not the end; not the fruit at the top of the tree, but the seed that inspires the seeker to begin their journey back to a permanent state of God-consciousness. (Did you know that the giant Sequoia, 300 feet tall and 100 feet in circumference and therefore the largest by volume of any tree on Earth, begins as a seed smaller than a flake of oatmeal? Also, that its germ can only be released by fire? I shudder!)

So knowing that awakening is an exceptional condition, not only to receive but especially to maintain, that “what comes up has to come down,” and believing that a permanent state of God-consciousness is possible, mystics employ meditation to “limit their downside potential,” to borrow a phrase from the business world. Still, meditation is not the actual experience but the tool; not the signal, let us say, which comes from God, but more like the tuner on a radio that must be carefully adjusted until it hones in on the proper frequency.

You Will Need Complete Self-Mastery

Science estimates the number of human beings who have ever lived to be roughly 100 billion, give or take 25 billion or so. (The number depends upon when you consider modern man to have first appeared.) And I’m about to take an even greater statistical leap and guess that the number of humans who have ever found themselves in Prince Siddhartha’s exact psychic condition, to be truly crying for reunification with the Highest, to be only a few hundred or so. Then really jump off the numerical cliff and say that even among those, the number able to complete their journey and become enlightened, permanently God-realized, is perhaps a few dozen at best.

This is because, as illustrated in the film, the play and the legend, you will need complete self-mastery as you are drawn up through the higher realms in order to remain one-pointedly focused on your goal. For the energies that occupy the various realities within you and around you will create every imaginable disruption, just as you might encounter in one of your weirdest and most disturbing dreams. Therefore, it is difficult beyond compare. And many sadhus and others who have practiced spiritual disciplines for decades, when at last they have begun their true ascent, for want of this indomitable inner will, have failed to attain a permanent higher consciousness and have had to descend again. But I’ll never say, “Serves them right” (maybe the other sadhus will), for what they have undertaken is, by far and away, the most difficult thing imaginable.

Mount_Everest

Pic via Wikipedia

The Highest Mountain

The highest mountain in the world at 29,035 feet is Mt. Everest, “discovered” in 1853 and named in 1865 in honor of the British surveyor general of India, even though for centuries it had been known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibet as Chomolungma, “Goddess Mother of the World”—much in the same way that Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, to the surprise, and later, chagrin of the Native Americans who must have been hard-pressed to try and figure out exactly where they had been living for tens of thousands of years. (In North America we liked most of their place names enough to keep them, anyway. More than half our states and thousands of our cities, counties, and other divisions in America have such ancient names. Connecticut is Mohegan from Quinnehtukqut meaning “beside the long tidal river.” Manhattan is Algonquian, and means “isolated by water.” There are thousands of other examples.)

Many people have been inspired to climb Everest, while the rest of humanity will ask, “What on Earth would make anyone want to do that?” To which George Mallory, who lost his life in 1924 on his third attempt to be the first to summit, famously answered, “Because it is there.” And this is perhaps the closest parallel to the pursuit of enlightenment that we have. Except that if you are successful in your inner climb, if you become enlightened, then you can stay at the peak, can remain eternally God-conscious and never have to descend.

Look for the next topic, Faith, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 4: Death

As the years went by, great-grandpas and great-grandmas and then regular old grandpas and grandmas, would grow feeble and go on…

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DEATH

Unless you grew up in Rwanda, Afghanistan, or Iraq, the things that were dying all around you when you were young—the parakeets, hamsters, little green turtles, or especially goldfish—all shared the characteristic of being easily replaced at the Five and Dime (now, due to inflation, the 99 Cents Store). Until your first dog died, that is.

I remember mine, Tippy—who I wasn’t even aware was sick, although my mom later insisted that she was very sick, and really old as well—lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs, while I watched from above, still in my pajamas, as her lifeless body was carried away by my irritated dad (this was making him late for work).

The Natural Course of Things

As the years went by, great-grandpas and great-grandmas and then regular old grandpas and grandmas, would grow feeble and go on to their rewards but with the exception of the crazy kid in high school who drove his car into a tree at ninety miles an hour, the natural course of things prevailed. (Recently, near where I live, in the very wealthy community of Greenwich, Connecticut, some rich-guy dad who wanted to make his son the envy of the high school parking lot gave the lad a new Corvette for his sixteenth birthday, with the predictable result that he, and even more tragically, his young girlfriend, careened off the road and were killed.)

Then in your 60s, where I now find myself, the Grim Reaper visits more frequently as some of your contemporaries, who otherwise seemed perfectly healthy, even fit, are struck down by a heart attack or an aneurism or cancer or something and it sure starts to seem like death, while maybe not having your number on its speed dial just yet, does seem more and more just a phone call away.
 
Flowered Field
 
I began writing this essay, arbitrarily I thought, on December 6, 2006, only to remember that it was three years before, to the day, that I lost one of my dearest friends to breast cancer. She had been diagnosed at the age of forty and did miraculously well for sixteen years, during which time, believe it or not, not only her sole sister but her mother, too, succumbed to the very same disease. (Her father had passed away many years before, of a heart attack, in her arms, on stage. She was a concert pianist and he, a concert violinist.) I was with all these women until just a few hours, even a few minutes, before the end. Meaning that for roughly five years of my recent life I was in the position of seeing three people whom I was very fond of “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

A Veritable Symphony of Death

My friend’s mother had grown up in Ukraine in the 1930s at a time when

Stalin had collectivized their farms and exported all their crops back to Russia, which by 1935 had led to death by starvation of over one-quarter of the population, including an estimated three million children. She had also been an operative in the Ukrainian underground during both the German and Russian occupations of World War II where, in a veritable symphony of death, the Germans had first come and killed all the Russians and their alleged sympathizers, then the Russians had come back and killed all the Germans and their alleged sympathizers, along with untold numbers of Ukrainians and their alleged sympathizers. (Not a good time to be sympathetic.) Consequently, she had the most cavalier approach to the whole business of dying of anyone I have ever met; so much so that on the first day that it became necessary for me to carry her to the bathroom she proclaimed, in her wonderfully thick Slavic accent, “That’s enough of this shit,” and left “This Bitter Earth” (the great name of a bar in Harlem) later that night.
 
Angel
 
My friend’s younger sister’s passing (thankfully, after her mom’s, who, no matter how tough, would not have been able to endure it), being premature, was more tragic. A wonderful and very successful singer, with one of the loveliest voices I had ever heard, and with a four-year-old son as well, she valiantly struggled to keep going, even to keep performing, but due to a brain metastasis finally collapsed and could not leave her bed. On the day before she passed she told me that three angels had come to her and told her that it was time and she had told them that she was ready. She departed with the next sunrise on a bright and beautiful April morning just days before her forty-fifth birthday. (Aptly, her Ukrainian name was Kvitka, which means flower.)

In the same way that the setting for her sister’s passing was in keeping with her nature, so was my friend’s, but unlike her sister’s spring, she enjoyed the winter, and so her last day brought a freak and furious blizzard that made it just about impossible for her two daughters and me to get to the hospital. Later, when leaving, though she was already comatose, I told her that I would be back to see her the next day and she managed a very sweet smile that told the whole story. The hospital called a few minutes later, while we were in the car “sledding” back home, to say that she had expired.
 
Cornflower Ladybug
 

A Few General Observations About Death

Therefore, while no expert, I do feel qualified, based on these recent experiences, to make a few general observations about death.

Job one for each of us is to fight for life until the very end, out of respect and especially gratitude to the One who has given us life. Then when any further participation in the goings-on here is impossible, our souls begin a process that they are very familiar with and prepare to return to their own abode. This is something absolutely sacred.

One more thing, on a practical level, that I feel I must share. As the energy available to our bodies diminishes, functions that are less essential for sustaining our physical existence begin to shut down. But hearing, for some reason, even after mobility, speaking, seeing and just about every other thing is lost, seems to remain active. Therefore, one should not stand around the “unconscious” loved one chatting and gossiping as if there was no one there, something I have seen many times, especially in hospices. For while it is understandable that you might be nervous about the thing in your midst, the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, loud and boisterous gatherings as if getting together for a Super Bowl party are really uncalled for. Even the apes show their dying more respect. So please, take your chitchat and especially your bluster down the hall.

To Make Life More Precious

Life after death, even if you believe those who say they have been and come back, remains a matter of faith; like when someone goes to a great vacation spot and while we have no reason to doubt their glowing report, we cannot be absolutely certain it lives up to all the hype until we go there ourselves.

A character on Six Feet Under, a popular TV comedy set in a mortuary (talk about a contradiction), when asked, “Why death?” simply answered, “to make life more precious”—probably the least speculative, most insightful thing that anyone has ever had to say about the whole mysterious business.
 

Featured Pic  by Vladimir Menkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, License

 
Look for the next topic, Enlightenment, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 3: CONSCIOUSNESS

Just about everything humans use today had to be invented or at the very least, as in the case of something that was already there…

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CONSCIOUSNESS

Just about everything humans use today had to be invented or at the very least, as in the case of something that was already there, like fire, “discovered,” or that’s the term we use anyway. Which is still a stretch, especially in the case of said fire, as it is not only ubiquitous but dangerous, burning your ass if you don’t move quickly enough to get out of its way!

The Wheel

Though it took 143,500 years (accepting the notion that modern man first appeared 150,000 years ago) to come up with the somewhat obvious innovation called the wheel, it would seem to qualify as an invention that, according to the archeologists, was originally cobbled together around 4500 BC by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.

A log had been used as a roller for millennia, and when the load came off, was simply picked up and replaced at the front in order to proceed (I guess before that you just dragged things around on your sled). Later two logs were used and the load merely balanced during this reconfiguring procedure. Sometime later that process, too, was refined by three, four, or even many, many more logs; in that way the pyramids were built. Then one day some proto-insurgent decided to forget the whole get-a-thousand-slaves-and-whip-them-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives- until-they-carried-these-humongous-rollers-back-up-a-very-steep-incline thing and made an axle. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meditation

Meditation, too, had to be invented, or more correctly (since it could also be argued that the idea of sitting quietly in self-observation was already sort of there), discovered. Amazingly, this occurred around 3000 BC, only fifteen hundred years or so after the invention of the wheel and by a group that today we call the Vedic seers or Rishis (Sanskrit for “saints”) who lived in the Indus Valley, in what is modern-day northwest India.

These Rishis also had a problem to solve and not just how to keep their captives alive long enough to finish the tomb for the glorious Pharaoh, but to find out, “Who am I?” and meditation was their solution. Yes, they reasoned that if they could take all the unnecessary noise out of themselves; if they could make their minds really calm and quiet, even thoughtless, they might be better able to observe their inner nature. (“Duh,” but we still don’t get it!)

The World’s Very First Book

For hundreds of years their discoveries formed an oral tradition or Shruti (“that which is heard”) that was passed down by the gurus (“teachers”) to their wannabe guru disciples until eventually they were collected into books called Vedas (“knowledge”). The very first of these, the Rig Veda, because it was written in the Indus script, can be fairly accurately dated to around 1700 BC, making it the world’s very first book. Earlier writings on papyrus (invented 2500 BC) or even earlier glyphs on animal skins have been found, but so far nothing before this time meets The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture’s (UNESCO) definition of the book as “a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers,” which at 1028 mantras (“hymns”) in ten chapters called mandalas (“cycles”), the Rig Veda easily does.

The first Rig Veda (there are four Vedas) also contains the most sacred of mantras, the Gayatri Mantra, which is still widely recited throughout the world, especially by Hindus. The following translation is by Sri Chinmoy:

We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme,
who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky, and
inside the soul of the heavens. May He stimulate and illumine our minds.

One “Deity Supreme”

Back in elementary school we were taught that the Hindus were polytheists (bad) and that the Christians and Jews were monotheists (awesome, and second best, respectively). And that around 1500 BC Abraham first discovered that there was only one God and this really freaked out everybody since they were all idolaters and pagans. The Gayatri Mantra, composed at least 200 years earlier, with its reference to the one “Deity Supreme,” would seem to dispute this. (And doesn’t Christianity also have angels and saints and prophets and a mother and a son and an entire heavenly pantheon that it claims surrounds its one highest God?)

Anyway, one unarguable thing—if there will ever be an unarguable thing— that we learn from the Vedas is that a formalized system of self-inquiry was methodized in the East at least 5000 years ago. And since we already know that psychoanalysis, the most familiar form of this here in the West, was established by Sigmund Freud about 100 years ago, this implies that we might have some catching up to do. Oh, and one more thing. While Freud said that our inner world was comprised of the repressed impulses of our subconscious minds that could be best understood through our dreams, the Rishis said that by practicing meditation we could come face to face with the One Supreme Being who dwells within all. Which, at long last, brings us to our essay topic: Consciousness.

oregon_sunset

Oregon Sunset by Malcom Carlaw

Consciousness

Here in the West, consciousness is generally understood to mean “the state of not being unconscious.” In the East, it describes what an individual is conscious of at a particular moment and since they believe that someone can potentially be conscious of everything, including this One Supreme Being, it covers a very wide range of things.

They also say that someone can be in a high state of consciousness or a low state of consciousness or even, I suppose, a so-so state of consciousness. And what they mean is that a person can be aware of his higher nature—his infinite peace, light and bliss—or can merely be, almost by default, aware only of his lower nature—his aggressive impulses and animalistic appetites—or can simply be staring vacantly ahead with flies buzzing in and out of his gaping maw.

How does anyone make that kind of judgment? (Excepting the fly thing, which is pretty obvious.) How do they know what is going on inside someone else? Are they presumptuous, even bumptious? (A great word; look it up.) The answers are probably they don’t and they are, unless they are a genuine Guru or Master, that is, for whom states of consciousness are their stock and trade. Zen Buddhism with its koans is a great way to illustrate this.

monk

via Wikipedia

Koans

Koans are questions given by Zen Masters to their students that can only be solved by intuition, such as the famous, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” In this practice the student contemplates his problem during his meditation and then after some time reappears before the Master with his solution. If the Master is satisfied, then he will give the student another more difficult koan and the procedure will be repeated. If not satisfied, the Master will send the student back to try again. This is done in private and to discuss of one’s assignment, especially with other students, is strictly forbidden.

Still, humans being humans, the rest of the monks, according to a friend of mine anyway, take great pleasure—of the malicious variety, of course—in finding out where everyone else is at: “Have you heard? Toyo is still on MU, and for more than one year! Shhh, here he comes.” Mu, by the way is “Has a dog the Buddha nature?”

While books like The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers (CliffsNotesTM for Monks?!) do exist, to think that the Master, if he is a legitimate one, would ever fall for such a ploy is absurd (unless for his own clever reasons he wanted to pretend that he was taken in by this trickery, that is). This is because there is not actually one true answer to any koan and the sensei is not examining the factual correctness of his student’s response but rather his student’s inner condition, his consciousness. He is judging if his student’s meditation has been fruitful; if he has increased his intuitive capacity and is becoming more conscious of the deeper and higher realities within himself or has merely spent the last few weeks, or months, or even years daydreaming or, as is more often the case, catnapping.

A Genuine God-Man

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven (or ‘God’) is within you,” and, as you know, he was a spiritual master with a dozen or so direct disciples. And this pronouncement is perfectly in keeping with the entire message and direction of Eastern spiritual thought for millennia. Now without getting into the rancor of who was a real prophet and who was false, of who was God’s only son and who was just some distant, even estranged relation, I believe that we can state, hopefully without injury to our person, that Jesus was not just bringing this up as an interesting fact but was hoping that his disciples would also seek this same Kingdom within themselves; that he was sharing this wisdom in order to inspire them to expand their consciousness. And further, as a genuine God-man, he was already conscious of this inner Kingdom within himself and had the capacity to look within his disciples to see how close they were to realizing this reality for themselves and then, out of his love and concern for them, would try and guide them toward this ultimate knowledge in the same way a Zen Master might do. But a million, gazillion times more legitimately, of course. Phew!
Look for the next topic, Death, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 2: BEAUTY

When you are born the doctors give you a spank of welcome, count your fingers and toes, and proclaim to your mother…

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BEAUTY

When you are born the doctors give you a spank of welcome, count your fingers and toes, and proclaim to your mother, “You have a beautiful baby boy/girl!” or so I’m told—I don’t remember too much about it. Or know, for that matter, what they say if your count comes up short. A decade or so later you want to kill yourself because your ears stick out. That I do remember! So what happened? Did I have bad work done?

No, socialization happened. The elite at my school were forming and I wasn’t yet a member; wasn’t invited to any of their exclusive get-togethers and would never be, I was certain, because of my curse: my big jug ears.

PYO

Appearance the First Criterion for Being Culled

People sometimes wistfully say, “Oh, to be young again.” Well they must have amnesia or at the very least, early dementia. For the world of youth, especially the preteen years, makes the Serengeti look civilized; and down at my own savanna in suburban Connecticut, the Central Grammar School, the taunting, branding, mental and even physical abuse, the fight to determine the alpha males and alpha females was full-on; and appearance, an obvious, perhaps the most obvious attribute, was the first criterion for being culled.

This is why the happiest day of my early life came about six months into my twelfth year—while riding bikes in the parking lot of the local shopping center and doing some harebrained things to impress the members of the A-team—when the leader of the pack decided that I was crazy enough to be invited to a party. Ears and all!

Boys are lucky. They can attain higher social status simply by acting insane. Girls are not so lucky. Beauty often outweighs all other methods whereby they are earmarked.

abstract-19079_1920

Face to Face with the One in a Million

I used to have an office in Manhattan one floor below the Click Modeling Agency, one of New York City’s most prestigious. So, very often, I would have to share an elevator with these creatures from another planet and if you had any illusions about how beautiful you were, you could throw them right down the shaft, for you were now face to face with the one in a million or even one in a hundred million that met all the world’s criteria for being beautiful. And it didn’t even seem to matter whether these Venuses paid any attention to what they wore or to their hair or makeup or whatever. In fact, an imperfection like Cindy Crawford’s mole or Lauren Hutton’s gap tooth or even Gia’s “heroin-chic/just woke up from a weeklong drug binge” appearance only seemed to help differentiate them from the few hundred or so others who inhabited their world.

On Thursday afternoons this same agency would hold an open house where any member of the public who felt they were an undiscovered supermodel could drop by for a free appraisal; get put up on the lift, so to speak. And the saddest thing on those days were the mothers with their darling daughters in tow who, believing that their little girl was the most beautiful on Earth, as by all rights they should, had gone to a lot of expense and trouble to make them up and dress them up to look like the queen of the prom. And while certainly attractive by most reckoning, with all their parts accounted for and affixed in all the proper places— good enough to play out of town, let us say—these girls were not six-plus feet tall, bone thin, with doe eyes, porcelain skin, and legs up to their chins.

Artistic Beauty

Later, when you saw these supplicants on their way back down, silent and crestfallen, you could easily think—if you didn’t know where they had been—that they had just received news of a terminal illness. It’s so crazy! All right, they were never going to be statuesque enough to walk the catwalk for the House of Dior or marry Donald Trump. But this begs the question: Who in their right mind would want to? (Marry The Donald, anyway.)

Where We Fit In

I once saw a photo of the Hunt brothers, a family of Texan oilmen, with their wives. All the women looked like mannequins and the latest models, too. (I’m sure the old ones had been traded in or warehoused.) While the brothers, to the man, looked like the kind of trolls one would find locking up fair maidens in impregnable towers or lurking around under bridges in children’s stories.
Now if we were alone in the world, all this wouldn’t matter; we wouldn’t care how comparatively beautiful we were (whom would we compare ourselves to?). But as soon as we form any kind of group we seem to immediately need to establish hierarchies, and especially to try to ascertain where we might fit in.

I ride a lot of subways in New York City on an almost daily basis. As soon as the door closes I look around at the little collective now being formed and try to determine if I’m in any kind of danger; if I’m going to have to fight for my life (flight being now temporarily off the table, at least until the next stop). Once I feel that I’m relatively safe I begin to attempt to establish my place in this new, albeit very temporary world-order. Who’s older, younger (sadly, fewer of the former these days), shorter, taller, richer, poorer. Even who’s fatter, skinnier (also sadly fewer of the former these days). And after I have sorted these things out, the oddest part of my survey now begins: who is the most beautiful? Being male (though I recognize that this “opposites attract” paradigm is no longer the hard-and-fast rule) I concern myself mostly with the females.

Framed in Hair

The Oddest Part of My Survey

I say “oddest” because the motivation for this does not seem to be to establish an emergency plan; a who-gets-to-eat-first pecking order should we suddenly find ourselves in a struggle to survive. And I’m not even sure if it is entirely based upon our next level of instincts, our reproductive urges, either, although this certainly does seem to try and worm itself in there. Just yesterday, in fact, a fellow seated some distance away from me was staring at someone standing near me and making what he believed was a most compelling advertisement of himself. Yes, he was attempting to force a kind of electronic crawl to march across his forehead that read: “I have the capacity to make such beautiful love to you, my darling” (à la Pepé Le Pew, the cartoon character/rapist). I then traced his sight line back to a very attractive, even model-caliber young girl standing near me who, while keeping her eyes fixed squarely ahead and purposefully at no one, still seemed aware that she was being singled out in this manner and was exhibiting both a kind of pleasure that she might garner such attention and a certain trepidation, as she could not really be sure whether this fellow might follow her out as she exited; might try and bother, even molest her.

Both myself and this very attractive one (but not the libidinous Don Juan, thank God) got off at the same stop and went in the same direction (not by design, mind you! I’m not a perv!), so I was able to observe from a few paces behind the attention-getting nature of beauty as it went about its normal business. The men (or most of them, anyway) were systematically rendered helpless, stunned, while the women—intuitively sensing a disturbance in the force—quickly averted their gaze. Why remind yourself of your inadequacies?

I am a mystical man by trade (though admittedly a normal man by default), so I am able to dispassionately observe things as they ebb and flow within myself and to some extent even marshal some semblance of self-control over certain of my impulses, and when I do this in a case like this, and drill down to the level where I might objectively observe the thing called “beauty,” what I note is something miraculous: earthly beings who have evolved heavenly attributes.

There is a famous poem by William Blake, “The Tyger,” in which he writes: “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” If we edit out the word fearful (forgive me, Bill), I think we can begin our contemplation of beauty in earnest.

Beautiful Smile

Something Beautiful Hidden Deep Within

For while the beautiful woman, or even man (although again, I’m not an expert in that field), did not create themselves, there is something beautiful hidden deep within the universe that is expressing more and more of its superlative qualities through its creations and especially its latest effort, the human being. Just consider hair. Why does it frame the human face so? (It certainly does not do this in any of our animal cohabitants, from whom we only recently parted ways.) In the Asian woman, for example, why is it often so extraordinarily silken, so amazingly black and flowing?

Yes, if we can manage to remove ourselves from our instinctual responses and especially our default mode of relentless competition, beauty then becomes a door to another world. But when we approach beauty in our everyday way, rather than simply accepting it or even marveling at it, we covet its ability to provide higher social status and/or pursue it as emblematic thereof, the way the wealthy man (okay, like “The Donald” or even the regular guy, I suppose), is convinced that to possess something that others want is proof of his superiority (think: trophy wife). This is why—given humanity’s current stage of development—beauty is on a strange and sometimes even precarious path, especially for its possessor.

As I read somewhere years ago but never forgot: “Only beautiful birds are imprisoned, crows are never caged.”

Featured pic Spiral Love Rose by Nicolas Raymond, License

Look for the next topic, Consciousness, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 1: ART

Please enjoy this first weekly installment from The ABCs of Enlightment by Jeffery Baker….

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ART

Human beings have been creating art for 50,000 to 75,000 years, if various regional claims can be settled; the Europeans with their beautiful cave drawings at Lascaux, France, being especially dismissive of the rough petroglyphs of the Africans and Australian Aboriginals, as you might expect. They have a good shot at the record for music, however, with a bear thighbone flute recently discovered in a Slovenian cave and dated to 50,000 BC.

Anthropologists call primitive art “the dawn of superfluous beauty” and so by extension we could certainly call this earliest music “the dawn of superfluous noise,” as we have concrete proof that this is what it has become today. Bothersome Muzak now plays everywhere, even in parking lots.

Not An Exclusively Human Endeavor

Until the 1960s when an English chimp (or one living in England, anyway) named Congo (1954–1964) created more than four hundred paintings, art was considered an exclusively human endeavor. Recently, one of Congo’s untitled canvases set an auction record for nonhuman art at $25,000 (posthumously, of course). And while there are elephants throughout Asia that paint and even one named Nellie in Los Angeles whose works include “Serengeti Passion” and “Kenyan Skies”—yes, not just some loud trumpeting sound—what set Congo apart was his passion.

For while the pachyderms don’t seem to care if they pick up a paintbrush or a mahogany log, Congo, if not allowed to paint, would go berserk; and if his canvas was removed before he felt it was finished, would go completely bananas. Yes, he seemed an artist in every sense—his hygiene was already quite characteristically poor.

The idea that a chimp’s creative output could be considered art upset many religious scholars; for they held that true art was a function of the soul expressing a divine urge and since only humans, in their opinion, had souls, Congo the chimp could not be expressing a divine urge and thereby creating art.

Paintball Art

by Lori Ho – license

According to Mysticism

Mysticism has no such problem with Congo or with the divinity of any of our other simian brothers and sisters. In fact, if mysticism has a problem, it’s trying to figure out what doesn’t have a soul: A dog? A bee? A house? A tree? And what doesn’t embody a divine urge, since according to mysticism the entire creation is the direct result of The Divine Urge which is nothing more than the Creator’s own inspiration to self-expression, the Universe and all its inhabitants being, in essence, God’s art.

So for mysticism the degree to which an organism can create art, can express a divine urge, is not a function of whether or not it has a soul, since most everything has one, but the degree to which that particular soul can express itself through that organism. The higher, more evolved organisms, such as ourselves, having the capacity to be more conscious of their inner realities, therefore becoming better candidates for soulful, artistic, self-expression. This is also why we are not completely surprised when a chimpanzee, our species’ closest relation (we share 99 percent of the same DNA), albeit an exceptionally “gifted” one named Congo, not only wants to paint but is as obsessed as was van Gogh.

Art From the Soul

Recently I was invited to a friend’s art exhibit, the final part of his master of fine arts degree from a famous New York City art college. He specializes in “installations”—not paintings or sculpture, per se, although it could include those—but created environments. The show was held in a loft in Greenwich Village that had been hastily cleaned out and included many other installations as well. My biggest problem that day was trying to figure out what were the works of art and what was intended for the dumpster, the only clue being the little signs with titles and attributions next to each exhibit, making those placards found near the piles of leftover construction materials, the janitor’s closets, or especially the restrooms, particularly daunting.

I bring this up not to be smug but to say that even if we side with the religious scholars and say that only humans have souls and thereby can create art, it is still a stretch to say that whatever is expressed by us comes directly from our souls. Though recognizing what does is no simple matter.

Michelangelo

via Michelangelo via Wikipedia

Openness; That Artistic Genius

Michelangelo, arguably the finest sculptor ever, said that creating art for him was simply a matter of chipping away all that wasn’t part of his statues; Mozart, considered by many the greatest composer, just a matter of transcribing the music that he already heard fully formed inside his head. The power, beauty, and fecundity of their output (Mozart lived only thirty-five years and had nearly seven hundred symphonic, choral, chamber, and operatic masterworks) tells us that creativity and especially creative abundance is not cunning but openness; that artistic genius, in the artists’ own words, is not contrivance but revelation; is, what is called in New Age parlance, “channeling.” And this is exactly what we would expect if we became aware of the infinite in us; if we became conscious of our soul. There is no better example of this than my own mentor, Sri Chinmoy, who created more than two hundred thousand paintings, fifteen million drawings, and composed more than twenty thousand songs.

Art of Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy with one of his Jharna-Kalas.

When Mozart was twelve and visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri’s famous Miserere—a complicated work for nine-part choir, which distribution or publication of was punishable by excommunication. That night, back in his hotel room, the young prodigy wrote the entire thing down from memory, perfectly, note for note. (At that age I was sitting with a record player and a guitar trying to figure out the chords for Beatles songs and getting them mostly wrong.) When Michelangelo was fourteen he was already hard at work on commissions from Italy’s greatest patrons, the Medicis.

Soulful, Profound and Prolific Self-Expression

So, is soulful, profound and prolific self-expression only for these few and a handful of other super-gifted persons throughout human history? The answer is no. (Does life distribute talent fairly? I’d rather not say.) Could any of the rest of us ever sculpt the Pieta or pen Eine Kleine Nachtmusik? The answer is also probably no, since it was these individuals’ unique combination of extraordinary abilities that could have done that. Could a person of “normal” abilities, such as the one who created a sculpture at my friend’s exhibit with a screw gun and a bunch of leftover pieces of two-by-fours—which looked for all the world like late the night before she had cobbled together whatever hadn’t yet been thrown out—be expressing her soul and creating art in this mystical sense? The answer, believe it or not, is possibly. How could one tell? It is a matter of “consciousness,” a spiritual term that has its own essay below (coming week 3!) but can be presently defined as “what one is conscious of.”

Fractal

Look at Art Inwardly Not Outwardly

If I were fully aware of my soul, whatever I touched would be imbued with soulfulness and therefore I would be creating art in this mystical sense. Let’s look at it another way.

Jesus was the son of Joseph, a carpenter. And while we don’t actually know if he ever took up the trade, I think we can safely assume, given that occupations in those days remained almost exclusively with their respective families, that he might have tried his hand at it once or twice, especially during his “Lost Years.” Now for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that he was the worst carpenter ever, producing things that did not even remotely qualify as furniture or whatever else it was that the family normally made (let’s hope they didn’t make crosses!). Would it matter? Wouldn’t anything from his hand, because of the inner reality, the consciousness, of its creator, be considered by millions the most precious thing ever created and thereby more treasured than any art by anyone else, including Michelangelo or even Mozart?

Of course, you could make the argument that we are no longer talking about art at all but about relics (someone once said that you could build an arc with all the “authentic” pieces of the cross found in Christian churches), but I think a strong case can be made that this is what modern art is already asking us to do: to look at art inwardly not outwardly; at its energy, its resonance. At the inner state of the artist himself as opposed to the outer appearance of the work itself; at its consciousness.

Humans are “Clever Monkeys”

Humans are “clever monkeys”—as a friend of mine is fond of saying—and can create things for any reason they want: to soothe or to shock; to comfort or to confront; to be as beautiful as possible or as horrific; to defy convention in an attempt to prove that art has no meaning at all, is merely superfluous, as was previously stated, though this last task is not so easily accomplished.

For I think you will find that most people are eager to hear or see or even read something that will speak to them on some deeper level; will reconnect them with their souls, the living portion of God within. And even if we beat them over the head, telling them not to expect anything beautiful, powerful, illumining, epiphanic, revelatory, or in any way meaningful, dilettantes and philistines that they are, they just can’t help themselves; can’t stop from hoping.

 

Look for the next topic, Beauty, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Daily Acts of Kindness – An Interview with author Suzie Abels

The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike…

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What inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration to write “Kindness on a Budget,” came from my twin brother, Jamie, who said “Sue, you need to write this all down because its important and will help other people SEE what is possible in daily acts of kindness.”

Secondly, from the “Secret Garden” I started long ago, off a service road, that united so many people from every background imaginable in search of , perhaps, “connection.” I wrote the book for ALL of them too. 🙂

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

What is the theme of your book?

The theme of my book is daily acts of kindness, which can be a word, a note, a gesture, and/or a gift. The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike and therefore, I humbly believe, energetically raises our precious planet’s frequency & vibration.

Kindness on a Budget

Who did you have in mind as you wrote your book?

In writing this inspiring & uplifting little book, I had in mind all the people on our precious planet & how important sharing the gift of spreading kindness daily is.

I was deeply blessed & honored to spend time with my greatest influence & spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan who always said, “Unless you see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” He was right on!

How has your study with Yogi Bhajan influenced your life and teachings?

My close connection with my Dear Dear spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan influenced my life & teachings profoundly. Yogiji would tell me as a young woman in her late 20’s thatYogi Bhajan I was a “fully conscious being,” Of course, then I did not fully understand the implications of his sharing & yet I felt his words to be true even then. He would often have me in his living room as a guest with 10-12 people and ask me what I thought of someone. I would answer what I saw and then after would be told by many I should not have answered!

Yogi Bhajan was training me to be confident enough to withstand the push/pull of the Ego wanting to hide into the background.

I believe he gifted me with strength, courage and an unbridled heart that he recognized was kind, even if I wasn’t sure at times.

Yogi Bhajan was an Aquarian teacher. He was strong, fierce, commanding, gentle, loving and for me the kindest person I had ever known all the days of my life then and now.

I could write volumes & volumes of the impact Yogi Bhajan had on me as a student, mother, wife and community leader.

What mostly pierced the finer lining of my heart’s soul was his steadfast commitment to me, Peter—my husband, my 3 children— Zach, Haley & Riley and that I just be steady or in my grace which took me 2 decades to embody!

In my early 30’s I was Yogiji’s informal gardener for his Los Angeles properties, Yoga West and The Guru Ram Das Ashram. He would say” Suzie, when you garden, it connects the heavens on Earth.”

I never missed one moment with Yogiji to say thank you, to sit near him, hug him, learn from this vastly DIVINE & RADIANT soul…as shy as I was in some ways, I just knew in my heart our time was super special.

My husband, Peter, and I never really knew the details of the titles of who Yogi Bhajan was until many, many years after his passing. I suppose its because it didn’t matter because he was just this exceptional and magnificent being who mattered to me, my husband, Zach, Haley & Riley.

He was kind to the core with a heart of solid platinum infused with the rarest gem stones undiscovered on our planet. That is who he was for me. I felt at home just hearing his voice and no I didn’t fully understand why, yet trusted my heart that would have traveled by donkey for endless miles to be near this deeply kind-hearted soul, my spiritual teacher.

I was honored to address the Los Angeles Guru Ram Das Ashram/Sangat during Gudwara on Sunday, October 4, 2015 on the very Dharmic message of kindness as it pertains to both my book’s contents and our world. As tremendously nervous as I was at this somewhat daunting task as a non-turban Westerner, I KNEW Yogi Bhajan would expect me to do it from my heart.

Suzie Abels

At first, I was visibly shaking scanning the room and seeing so many of the people I treasured and saw frequently when Yogi Bhajan was alive. I drew strength and comfort seeing Guru Singh, Guru Johda, Kirtan Singh, Manjit Kaur, Dr. Allan, Siri Simran, Mahani…so many people I shared the journey with which by no means was the easiest route I could have chosen to trek down!

I finished sharing about the value daily acts of kindness has on all of us and after the close of gudwara  we all sat in the langar hall next door. People shared with me that “we really needed this message that you delivered from the heart.” I just said thank you and for a few brief moments felt as if Yogi Bhajan was right next to me, the whole time, just as he was all those years and I wept in gratitude.

I asked the Sangat (community) to please join me in a prayer Yogiji gave in 1998

“My soul, bless me, be with me. Energize me so I can face the world with the strength of the Spirit. Save me from duality, give me the reality and royalty, so I can face my world in peace and tranquility. May this journey of life be completed with love and affection, kindness and compassion for all living things.” ~ Yogi Bhajan 1-23-1998

Sat Nam.

What do you say to people who become discouraged with all of the war and anger in the world?

Healing is possible with one person doing their own inner work and mindfully & consciously committing to daily acts of kindness.

I am more & more sure that this may be the answer to so many of our world problems because when one is serving another through kindness, all things become neutralized and therefore peace is possible.

What is your own daily spiritual practice?

As soon as I am awake before getting out of my bed I say thank you, thank you, thank you as “an attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga,” (Yogi Bhajan) and therefore sets the energetic stage for the day.

I next take a fairly cold shower and do sadhana which consists of prayers, chanting and meditation in front of my very large Tratakum picture of Yogi Bhajan.

What last thoughts would you like to leave our readers with?

Try doing just one act of kindness daily. See, feel and become consciously/mindfully in tune or aware of how much better you feel despite whatever challenges or hardships you are facing. Notice the softening or dropping deeper into your heart. Your soul, I believe, will say thank you.

In gratitude for this opportunity to share with all of you today.

May your days be blessed with the sweet ambrosial nectar that is delivered to the hearts core when one is kind on a daily basis Dear Ones (S.E.A)

 

Suzie (Harijot) Abels

Suzie Abels is a beacon of love and giving for her family, friends and community. She lives life to its fullest, opens her heart to strangers and loved ones alike and has left a lasting footprint of inspiration on her path to spread kindness. Residing in Orange County, Suzie is the devoted mother of Zach, Haley and Riley and the proud wife of Peter.

http://suzieabelsauthor.com/

Twitter: @IntuitiveSuzie

Facebook: Kindness on a Budget
Suzie’s book Kindness on a Budget is available on Amazon.

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My Journey of the Heart to Weight Loss

Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves…

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By Nagesh

Personal Growth Through Weight Loss

 Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves-depths, which we have yet to tap into. Not that I go looking for difficulties, mind you, but life does have a way of giving us ‘opportunities for growth.’

In June of 2014, I was offered such an opportunity. My profession is a tennis teaching professional in San Francisco. Early in that month, I sustained 3 unrelated injuries, though all related to tennis. I tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder, tore the meniscus in my right knee, and fractured my right hand. I needed to make it through the summer before I would have the surgeries, so I grinded my way until the end of August.

Nagesh still 3

Before

Unwanted Weight

During this time, partly because of these injuries, a general depression set in and I put on weight. This was all new territory for me as I had always prided myself on being in great shape, spending many years as a competitive tennis player. I played 3 years of college tennis followed by many years of semi-professional tournaments in California and Europe, driven to become the best tennis player I could be.

Fitness was always a huge part of ‘my game’ because I came to tennis very late in life and I was always competing against players far more experienced than me. Being super fit gave me a key advantage that helped me overcome my lack of tennis experience. When my body began to break down and my weight ballooned up to 225 lbs. (my playing weight was always around 170-175lbs), it is not difficult to understand how depression began to take hold of my psyche.

I had my first surgery in August 2014 (shoulder) and waited until December to have my knee done-Surgery was not needed for my hand. From the end of August until April I was off work. Though I was very happy to have my shoulder and knee repaired, the weight remained, as I was not able to do much but sit around.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

Trip to San Diego

For months, I had been ‘knowing’ that it was time to “lose it” and get my body back to a more normal weight for me, however, it wasn’t until my trip to San Diego, to perform a music concert at the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio, that the vehicle to embody my ‘knowing’ formulated. While in San Diego, someone mentioned the Atkins diet to me. After some research on the philosophy behind the diet, I decided to give it a try. On April 1st 2015 I jumped head first into my new way of eating, inspired that I had found my ‘way’ to embody my ‘knowing’ to ‘lose it’.

Meet the Atkins Diet

As per the instructions of the Atkins plan, I brought my carbs down to about 20 grams per day, increased my fat intake (up to about 60-70%), along with a moderate amount of protein. This flew in the face of everything I had learned about nutrition up to this point. The conventional wisdom was that a low fat, high carb diet was the best and healthiest. The results of my low carb, high fat diet, however, countered this conventional wisdom. I started to drop pounds immediately (about 4-5 pounds per week). Not only that but I began to feel much better. Gone were the energy spikes and mood swings and, in their place, was a steady energy level all day long-with no hunger cravings!

Nagesh After

After

This fascinated me and had me studying everything I could find about this way of eating, often referred to High Fat Low Carb (also known as HFLC), because I wanted to understand how this could be happening to me and if this was also happening for others as well. What I discovered was that, ‘Yes, it IS happening for others’, but also, that Atkins was not the only one recommending this way (HFLC) of eating.

It’s so awesome to, once again, be reminded that difficulties do indeed offer us ‘opportunities for growth’, along with opportunities for incredible life changes!

In upcoming posts I’ll explore some of the other HFLC plans out there and the wonderful world of weight loss that is available to everyone willing to put in the effort.

 

Nagesh is a musician and tennis professional living in San Francisco. He writes and performs original kirtan and bhajans inspired by his spiritual studies and journeys to India. You can find his music on Google Play Music store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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