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Caring For Aging Parents: 6 Ways to Keep Your Parents Fit In Their Old Age

When it comes to caring for aging parents, here are six things you can do to connect with them, keep their spirits up and help them feel integrated and important in their lives.

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Loneliness, isolation, hopelessness and boredom are all things people may feel as they age. They may not be able to remain as social as they once were,  their immobility could be a significant factor in making them feel isolated, there will inevitably be physical and/or mental health issues, and watching friends pass way might be making them stay at home more. When it comes to caring for aging parents, here are six things you can do to connect with them, keep their spirits up and help them feel integrated and important in their lives.

Child With Woman Holding Map

Encourage Them to Eat Healthily

Eating healthy is very important to maintain physical and mental fitness, even if you’re just starting in old age. People are more prone to illnesses as they get older, making it necessary to eat foods that can boost the immune system. Other than that, they also need all the essential nutrients from natural foods as they are better than supplements. 

Encourage them to eat foods that are:

  • Whole plant foods
  • High in fiber
  • High in protein
  • Low in processed sugars

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes are all great options. When taking care of aging parents, consider cooking meals for them in bulk (soups are a great option for this!), encouraging them to join healthy eating groups, subscribing to meal kit delivery services, or hiring in-home help to prepare meals. This is a great way to support them and help them enjoy their twilight years.

Get Them Exercising

Physical fitness is important at every age, even if someone has been sedentary for a while. If mom or dad is already quite mobile, show your enthusiastic support for this and encourage them to keep exercising. If not, check in with them and see what they might be open to. Perhaps it’s a walk around their neighborhood. Maybe it’s a silver sneakers and aqua class at a nearby gym. Perhaps it’s a membership to a yoga studio. It could even be online! Whatever the choice, get them moving everyday with a type of exercise that is appealing to them. 

Monitor Their Sleep Patterns

Ask them if they have regular sleeping patterns. Frequent waking and insomnia can be common, and we know that sleep is a vital aspect  of healthy living. Make sure there isn’t anything in the room bothering them. Replacing any annoying light or an appliance that makes a lot of noise. Make sure their bedroom is as comfortable as it can be for them.

Get Them Online

The internet is an excellent piece of technology that can have many benefits. Introduce them to social media websites, community websites and apps (like Nextdoor and Meetup), Google search, and streaming services like Netflix. It can help foster a sense of community and help them connect with new friends.

Make Sure They Get Proper Healthcare

Take them to the doctor on a regular cadence to get routine tests done. If they have a condition, visit them frequently and call more to make sure they are well. If needed and possible, look into options like hiring a nurse or enrolling in a senior home care center which can provide round-the-clock care, serve healthy food, and give them a lot of time to socialize and engage in activities.

Frequent Visits

A visit from you can make things better. You may be used to calling once in a while but making surprise visits can brighten their day. If you have kids, take them along. It’s important for all people to feel integrated in a community and family, and quality time together can make life more meaningful.

When caring for aging parents, the most important thing is to communicate often. Stay involved in their lives, help them do the things they’re interested in, encourage good habits that make life enjoyable. This will help them live more happily for longer and will strengthen your relationship with each other.

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Why Is Time Management Important? Time Management Lessons from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

What shall I do with my time? What are you going to do with yours? This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. It is a question that necessitates a bit of inquiry.

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“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

What shall I do with my time? What are you going to do with yours? This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. It is a question that necessitates a bit of inquiry. If I am to help you discover the key to time management, you must ponder a few things with deep concentration. Let’s begin.

My first issue concerns the use of the term time-management. I think it misses the crux of the matter. We don’t manage time…as far as I have experienced it, time flows on, or we flow through it, uniteruptedly. We don’t control time. It devours us. What we can control is ourselves as we flow through time. When thinking about time we cannot help but ponder death. Death and time are brothers, they go together. Death can create angst as it reinforces the fleeting nature of time. 

So, the issue is not time management. It is self- management. How to manage ourselves? And why manage ourselves?

This is where time can help us. Time is in fact not something we need to control, it is something we need to utilize. Time is magical; it brings change.

Time management is essential for the achievement of goals in life. Time is also essential to enjoy what we have achieved. Some people are on the hamster wheel of desire thinking that the next achievement is going to bring happiness. Learning to enjoy and honor our achievement is also essential and requires time.

“So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person’s genius is confined to a very few hours.”

–Emerson

The genius to which Emerson refers is the part of our being that, when nourished by our time and activity, floods us with satisfaction. And just like we each have a unique moment in time we each have a unique genius that is nourished in a unique way. For me it is writing and meditating that nourishes my genius. At those times I feel there is no where else I would rather be or be doing. By retrospect I take Emerson to be meaning time spent in reflection upon the past. We need to reflect upon the past to learn and yet we can also become lost in thinking about what has been or what we would have likes to have happened. Either way, it takes time.

To exist in society, to house, feed and clothe ourselves takes the majority of our day and occupies our bodies and minds. That leaves precious little time to nourish our genius, our soul. This fact leads to the key to time management.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” –Emerson

Everything boils down to choices. Our choices define our lives. We find ourselves in situations and relationships, often apparently for reasons beyond our control and defined by the family we are born into, the spirit of the times, the city and country into which we were born. We cannot always control how we arrive in a given situation but we can make conscious choices once we are in them. 

My polestar for decisions is the feeling of satisfaction. Often the choices we need to make are very challenging. Emerson’s quote can help you to muster up the courage to make them. Time is finite. Too late, comes to quickly. Live with your best discretion knowing that there may be no tomorrow. Who wants to die with regrets?

How shall we make our choices? In discussing this with a friend she stressed the importance of managing self and time gracefully. When we act with grace we are fluid and in balance, if we overburden ourselves we fall off kilter, we lose our poise, our grace. We do the same if we put ourselves under undo pressure. Managing our lives with grace allows life to flow. Winds its way gracefully, we can do the same. After all, we are 75% water!

Once these ideas are assimilated you will find time management to be very simple. The essential ideas:

  • This is your life, your unique moment in history.
  • You cannot control the overarching circumstances but you can make decisions about your life.
  • Find what gives you abiding satisfaction.
  • Flow with grace.
  • Time is limited. Act now!

**Read our other articles about Emerson’s works!

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Motivation To Start Yoga: 5 Steps to Bring Yoga into your Life Every Day.

Remember, though, that yoga should be enjoyable and should fit your mood and schedule each day. Whether you’re traveling, too busy to get to your studio, too exhausted, or can’t fit studio membership into your budget, here are five great tips to making a daily yoga practice accessible and enjoyable.

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Have you ever seen photos of chiseled yogis smiling in some acrobatic posture and thought to yourself, “If only I could do a one-handed handstand?” Well, the journey to levitation isn’t short or easy, but this article will help you create the space for a daily yoga practice and make your personal goals within reach.

For many, attending a yoga class at 6:30am might seem dreadful, and after a long day at work, it’s easy to understand if you’re too exhausted to opt for an hour-long sweat session. That’s why teachers often ask students to offer gratitude to themselves at the end of each class for having the determination to show up on their mats.

Remember, though, that yoga should be enjoyable and should fit your mood and schedule each day. Whether you’re traveling, too busy to get to your studio, too exhausted, or can’t fit studio membership into your budget, here are five great tips to making a daily yoga practice accessible and enjoyable.

1. Create the Space

Creating a physical space in your home or office that is inviting for you to move through some yoga postures can turn the thought of a tough practice into a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. 

Begin by setting the mood with music appropriate for the kind of practice you’re looking to have. If you want to sweat and flow, put on your favorite pop or electronic playlist and turn up the bass. Similarly, if you want to relax and unwind, create a soothing ambience with peaceful music of your choice. Personally, Krishna Das is almost always my go-to.

Next, adjust the temperature so that you’re comfortable; more than simply making a winter class tolerable, a good space heater can also make for a great addition to your own hot yoga practice. 

Finally, bring more serenity to your space by adding candles, a plant, or even a rock with a positive intention like strength, stability, or balance.

Having YOUR space will make the goal of practicing yoga each day a reality and bring you one step closer to that cover on Yoga Journal.

2. Do a Song’s Worth of Yoga

Who says a yoga practice has to be an hour?!

Put on your favorite song and get moving. Tune in to your breath and enjoy the benefits of stretching your mind and body even if for just a few minutes of practice.

Several half sun salutations will give your body much-needed relief from sitting hunched-over at your desk all day and awaken your body after a night’s sleep. 

Besides, if you tell yourself you must do 20 minutes of yoga, you may never find the time. One song’s worth of yoga is a great place to start, and, again, you’re one verse closer to chiseled one-handed handstands.

3. Take Yourself Lightly

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t practice. The worst mistake you can make is to create and put yourself into a box that is full of suffering, shame, and guilt. 

Focus on the positives and, if you miss a day, create the time and space to get back at it the next day.

Remember that yoga is an ENJOYABLE journey of self-improvement, empowerment, and freedom! … And chiseled abdominals. Be patient and persistent, and you will see the benefits and positivity of your efforts blossom before your eyes.

4. Goals!

Whether you want to ease stress, back pain, become more limber, or gain strength, be mindful and realistic of your goals. 

No yogi ever appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal by accident. By defining realistic goals, you will give each yoga session more meaning and allow yourself to acknowledge your efforts through achievements.

Over time, you may surprise yourself with your progress and with how your goals encompass feats that were, before, beyond your scope of vision. Start with an attainable goal, and new doors will soon open.

5. Rewards

Train your mind and body as you would any household pet and give yourself a reward for good behavior. 

Personally, I love donuts; unfortunately, there just happens to be a donut shop on the corner by my yoga studio. A while back, I began rewarding myself with a maple bar a couple times a week. I soon realized, however, that the donuts were outweighing the benefits of my yoga practice. I’ve learned to keep the donut treat to once or twice a month so that I can enjoy it without guilt and recognize my hard work. 

Similarly, make a rewards system for long-term goals. With the purpose of this article being to implement a yoga practice into your daily life, start with a realistic goal of practicing at least a song’s worth of yoga each day for a month. Set an appropriate reward for yourself, such as a day at the spa, and remember to enjoy the journey and to not be critical of yourself should you fall short of your goal. 

Tell yourself, “If I don’t honor myself, who will?”

Remember 

At the end of each practice, remember and impress upon your memory how good you feel. Each time you think of yoga, remember THAT feeling. The awareness of the benefits your practice brings you will keep you coming back to the mat – guaranteed!

Pretty soon, you might be smiling upside-down, if not on the cover of a yoga magazine, at least in your living room.

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Mudras For the Heart Chakra: Opening Your Spiritual Heart With 3 Mudras.

The focus of this article, however, is on utilizing mudras to open the spiritual heart center, where the greatest sensation of harmony and oneness with yourself, God, and the rest of the world resides.

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There is a link between our physical body and our more subtle dimensions. Signals flow through our physical bodies via our nervous system and are translated by our brains into sensations, emotions, and thoughts. By controlling the input signal, we can then have an effect on the output, our experience. Yoga teaches this through a sequential development of tuning-in to our bodies, our breath, our emotions and thoughts, and, later, deeper states of awareness. Often, the result of yoga is relaxation and insightful introspection.

What Are Mudras?

Another way to control the signals flowing through our nervous system is by engaging the nerve endings in our fingers using mudras. Mudras, translating to “seal,” are hand gestures that bring consciousness into the nerve endings in our hands with varying effects of energizing our bodies as well as calming our minds. Neurons carry the input signal that each mudra creates from our hands through our nervous system that our brains translate into a stimulating or calming response.

Our hands have over 25,000 nerve endings which explains why our hands provide us with the richest and most intimate source of tactile feedback. Our sense of touch and feeling, of intimacy, resides in our hands. We help others with our hands, we write and communicate with our hands. We eat and nourish ourselves with our hands. For most, hands are our connection to the world around us. 

In eastern medicine, reflexology of the hand connects the various parts of our extremities with specific regions of the body. Thus mudras affect changes not only in our minds but also in parts of the body that correlate with the specific locations of the hand that each mudra engages. That being said, some mudras support the digestive system while others relieve back pain or respiratory issues. 

Mudras For the Heart

The focus of this article, however, is on utilizing mudras to open the spiritual heart center, where the greatest sensation of harmony and oneness with yourself, God, and the rest of the world resides. The heart chakra, Anahata, is associated with a love for life and unconditional, selfless love towards all creation. In unlocking this energetic center, one attains the wisdom of creation and a sense of their life’s purpose.

Concentration, visualization, and meditation are tools to tap into the heart center to harness the dormant powers within. To assist our growth and development, it is important to set an intention for our practice. Meditating on purity, the foundation of spiritual growth, is a transformative way of energizing our heart center and connecting with God; this is because purity embodies ideas and energies that can be associated with the divine, such as kindness, love, compassion, oneness, and gratitude. 

To begin practicing with mudras, first enter a meditative state using concentration and visualization techniques. Stay rooted in your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly, deeply, and steadily. Release any tension in the body, then imagine a flower blossoming or a candle flame in the center of your chest. Form your mudra of choice, keeping the pressure between your fingers light and your hands relaxed. 

Anjali Mudra

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The first mudra for connecting with your spiritual heart is Anjali Mudra. Anjali means “to offer” or “salutation.” In the western world, this gesture is commonly viewed as a symbol of prayer. Anjali Mudra is a sign of offering yourself to God, acknowledging the divinity within you and in all, and sealing that through prayerful practice. By uniting our hands in front of our heart, we join the left and right hemispheres of our brain and bring calmness to our minds. To further deepen our inner awareness in meditation, we can concentrate on the beating of our heart against our hands. 

At the end of a yoga class, Anjali Mudra is accompanied by the word, “Namaste,” which translates to, “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” Embracing this meaning, Anjali Mudra is a powerful posture to begin the journey of opening our heart center, acknowledging the creator in all beings.

Padma Mudra

Padma translates to “lotus,” and in yoga, it is no coincidence that the heart center is often viewed as a lotus flower. Moving from Anjali Mudra to Padma Mudra, we can visualize our heart center blossoming as we unite our earthly existence with our soul. Like a flower, we open our hearts when the sun, or God, gives us light. With our open hearts, we give our love to the world, fulfilling our life’s purpose the same way an open flower nourishes the insects that feed upon it. Padma Mudra fills us with loving sensations and calms our minds as we gravitate from the darkness of our desires, fears, and attachments towards the purifying light of divinity.

Garuda Mudra

Harnessing the power of the eagle, or Garuda, this mudra invigorates the body and activates blood flow and circulation. Unlike Anjali and Padma Mudras, this is an energizing gesture that should be exercised with some caution, especially by those who suffer from high blood pressure. It can be helpful, however, for relieving menstrual related pain, upset stomachs, and respiratory issues as well as stabilizing moods and negating exhaustion. Garuda Mudra symbolizes the eagle Vishnu, god of preservation, rode upon and helps cultivate discipline in our practice. 

Elevating our awareness to encapture that which is the divine is no lofty undertaking. We invoke the spirit of Garuda to carry us day in and day out to remind us of our purpose and intention – to purify ourselves and open our hearts so that we may connect with the divine that is within us and in all beings. 

A solid foundation of meditation is helpful when starting a mudra practice, but one should exercise patience regardless of their prior experience. With consistency and pure intention, you will bring peace to your body and mind, awaken your spiritual heart, and develop a greater understanding and awareness of the subtle aspects of existence. 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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The Power Of Negative Thinking & How To Think Positive.

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

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Do you ever have down days? Of course – we all do. It is a part of life. But, are you aware of what’s causing this? Why are things great one day, fine the next, and gloomy the day after that? In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that drive our ups and downs so that you can recognize your own patterns and prevent another ruined day.

The answer behind our mood swings is often quite simple – negative thought patterns. Maybe you’ve recognized this when you’ve been in a bad mood and noticed feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or fear. Beneath those feelings is where we can find the patterns of self-doubt and negative self-talk that drive us, unconsciously, to bad moods.

We pick up these patterns from different sources – maybe, for example, it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you like, “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that. You should focus on this in life.” On the other hand we pick up negative thoughts from culture, from society, and even from those we love the most. For example, maybe a close relationship went bad, and someone said some really negative things to you. Because, you care deeply for that person, or you did, you absorb that negativity, granting their comments merit.

Using Meditation to Counteract Negative Thinking

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

The first is through the use of our intellect. In meditation or the yoga philosophy, the term intellect signifies your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true and what’s false. 

If someone had put it in your mind that you’re no good, for example, you might continue with that belief dragging you down forever. Through the practice of meditation, however, you will come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” Meditation enables us to embrace the power of our minds and use reason to eliminate our negative thoughts and patterns.

The other way that yoga philosophy teaches to combat negative thought patterns is to counter them with their opposites. To understand this concept we can use the imagery of waves where a positive thought wave counters the oncoming wave of a negative thought, restoring balance and evenness of mind by cancelling each other out. This process involves really identifying what’s going on in your mind and then bringing in an emotion, feeling, or thought that would cancel out the negativity.

If a negative thought pattern involves how angry you are at somebody, for example, then the way to counter that feeling would be thoughts of forgiveness. For the feeling of hatred towards someone else or even yourself, the opposite thought would be unconditional love. For self-doubt – confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery for this exercise. If you doubt yourself, for example, and you see yourself as weak or lacking a certain capacity, you could visualize yourself as powerful, even introducing the imagery of a mighty elephant that can get through anything. 

The ability to meditate and incorporate these techniques allows you to shift your pre-conceptions and negative ideas about your emotions, yourself, and others. You will find that confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself, as forgiving others feels so much better than holding on to anger. It often takes just one or two times of realizing these patterns and shifting our response before it becomes easier to identify and eliminate our negative ways.

To practice these techniques in your meditation practice, you can use the prompt below to guide you through the process of developing your intellect to discern truth from falsehood and using positive affirmations and emotions to restore balance to your mind. You can record yourself reading the meditation, read it to yourself during your own meditation, or take turns reading it to a friend. Whichever way you choose, begin your meditation as you normally would and invite these exercises in when you feel relaxed and at ease.

How To Think Positive Meditation

Bring to your awareness a challenge that you’re currently facing or a situation or circumstance that poses a challenge. 

The source of our challenges is usually within us, so through a little bit of reflection, observe what’s making it a challenge: 

Do you have to let go of something?

Are you attached to something?

Are you afraid of something?

Ask yourself: what’s causing it to be a challenge or what qualities do you need to overcome it?

You may recognize that you are afraid or attached or insecure.

Invite this feeling’s opposite such as security, confidence, or courage.

If you’re not really sure what the challenge is but you know that there’s a quality that you need to cultivate to get through this circumstance or situation, then focus on that quality, inwardly repeating the quality as you breathe in.

Now, visualize the challenge and the quality resolving the situation. Imagine the situation as you want it to turn out. Use your imagination to feel the positive quality growing within you.

Focus on your breath, the positive quality, and the visual images of you overcoming your situation.

In the process of ending your meditation, move your mind back to your outer senses, your sense of body, sense of the room, but inwardly hold on to your sense of self and whatever inspiration or energy you got from the different visualizations and techniques.

With time and practice, you will root out your negative thoughts and develop a discriminating intellect free from falsities about yourself and others. 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Guided Meditation: Cultivating Gratitude.

In this meditation, you can cultivate a feeling of oneness with Earth where you recognize her as a being and even a provider. In doing so, you can offer gratitude to the source that sustains us and provides for us.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

Gratitude for Our Mother (Earth)

Mother Earth, as westerners often refer to our planet, is a symbolic reference to our dependence upon the place where we live. In western society, it is easy to live blind to the connection we share with our planet. We are driven by the stress of jobs, relationships, and goals. We lose sight of where our ancestors came from and the life beyond the confines of our cities. Many cultures before us, however, had a relationship with Earth and viewed her as a sentient being with human qualities. Being the provider, Mother Earth was viewed and worshipped as a deity. In this meditation, you can cultivate a feeling of oneness with Earth where you recognize her as a being and even a provider. In doing so, you can offer gratitude to the source that sustains us and provides for us. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to recall our impact on the planet and the importance of respecting and loving our her like a mother.

Below is an Iroquois prayer to Mother Earth that may give you an insightful perspective to another culture’s reverence for and relationship with our planet:

We return thanks to our mother,
the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines
for the cure of our diseases.

We return thanks to the corn,
and to her sisters, the beans and squash,
which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
which, moving the air,
has banished diseases.

We return thanks to the moon and the stars,
which have given us their light
when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
who has given to us his rain.

We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth
with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit.
in whom is embodied all goodness.
and who directs all things,
for the good of his children.

Whether guiding yourself or another through these meditations, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Earth Meditation

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – perhaps the rise and fall of the belly, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, or the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

As you breathe in, feel your body lengthen and grow from the ground beneath you. With each exhale, feel yourself relax back into the Earth supporting you. Feel the vast ocean of energy deep inside you rooting and connecting you to the earth. (pause for several breath cycles) Now breathe awareness into the muscles around your face. On your exhale, feel the muscles release. (pause) Breathe your awareness into your lower back. On your exhale, feel the muscles in your lower back relax. (pause) Now, choose another part of your body to bring conscious relaxation. Use your inhales to focus your awareness and your exhales to bring relaxation. (pause)

Moving in to visualization, imagine yourself walking through a peaceful garden. All of the plants are green and healthy. The soil is soft and rich beneath you. The sun gently peaks through the trees above. There are birds chirping, butterflies swirling. You come to a fountain where water gently trickles and splashes and rest there to enjoy the beauty of our Earth. You feel completely free and safe. (pause)

Inhale an awareness of the majesty of Mother Earth. The depths of her oceans, the heights of her mountains, the power of her winds, the richness of her soil. She gives unconditionally and exemplifies purity in her beauty. 

Recall all that Mother Earth provides for life to exist – the rivers and rains that bring fresh water, the wood for fires and shelter, the air we breathe, the vegetation that nourishes us. Let us return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us. On your inhale, invite a growing sensation of gratitude in the center of your chest for Mother Earth. On your exhale, let the gratitude flow through you and back down into the Earth beneath you. Feel yourself connected to the earth. (Pause until ready to move on)

When you are ready, inhale and invite your awareness back to your body and your senses. Sense the relationship you’ve cultivated for our Earth and the gratitude you feel for all that she provides. As you move on from your meditation, be mindful of what you give and take from our planet and how you can have a positive impact in our world.

On your inhales, imagine that you are taking in energy from the soles of your feet through the back of your body. Follow the energy up through the backs of your legs, your back and neck to the crown of your head. On your exhales, watch the energy descend through your third eye and down the front of your body to the soles of your feet. (repeat 3-5 breath cycles)

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Benefits of Good Dental Hygiene: How Oral Health Affects The Rest Of You.

Did you know that your mouth is a gateway to your body? The state of your oral health can offer clues about whole-body health and reveal symptoms of various illnesses.

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Did you know that your mouth is a gateway to your body? The state of your oral health can offer clues about whole-body health and reveal symptoms of various illnesses.

Filled with countless bacteria, your mouth acts as the entry point to your digestive and respiratory systems. Without a proper oral health regimen to keep bacteria under control, microorganisms from the mouth can cause infection in other areas of the body, especially if the immune system is compromised by medication or disease. 

Moreover, many illnesses can negatively impact oral health by reducing saliva flow and altering the balance of the mouth’s microorganisms. This can lead to oral infections such as periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Health conditions and systemic diseases that can be caused or complicated by poor oral hygiene include:

  • Diabetes — Gum disease is more frequent and severe among individuals with diabetes since higher glucose levels in the mouth can encourage bacterial growth. The illness can also impair blood flow to the gums, which makes them more susceptible to infections. 
  • Respiratory conditions — Certain bacteria from tooth plaque can be pulled into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other serious respiratory diseases. 
  • Heart disease — Some research suggests that cardiovascular disease, strokes and clogged arteries might be linked to infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria. 
  • Pregnancy — Pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm or low birth weight infants. 

Simple habits such as brushing and flossing your teeth daily, as well as scheduling regular cleanings by your dentist, can optimize a healthy mouth-body connection. To learn more ways your oral hygiene and overall well-being are linked, see the accompanying guide. 

The Health Connection Between Your Mouth & Body

The Health Connection Between Your Mouth & Body was created by Grove Dental Associates

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Tuttle is Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a multi-specialty group dental practice in Chicago’s western suburbs. With more than 30 doctors and 50 years of practice experience, Grove Dental’s offices stay on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.   

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Guided Meditation for Emotional Healing.

Meditation allows us to root ourselves in the present and tune-in to our current emotional state. With practice, we can watch the rise of emotions and halt negative ones before they drive a shift in our mood.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

We react to our experiences with emotional responses. These emotions can be positive and joyous or depressive and anxious. Unfortunately, we spend much of our day in a stressful state rushing to work or a meeting, completing a task, responding to messages, paying bills. We easily become overwhelmed, ending each day feeling exhausted and depleted. This cycle drives a pattern of anxiety and depression, and we often don’t even realize that we are going through this until we finally crash and say, “I’m depressed” or “I have anxiety”. 

Meditation allows us to root ourselves in the present and tune-in to our current emotional state. With practice, we can watch the rise of emotions and halt negative ones before they drive a shift in our mood. For example, a good morning at work can easily turn sour when a problem arises and makes you frustrated. If you don’t recognize the rise of the emotion and intervene, you allow the emotion to drive your mood for the rest of the day. This guided meditation will lead you to a greater awareness of your emotional state so you can stay balanced through the ups and downs of each day, warding off negative emotions and moods. 

Whether guiding yourself or another through this meditation, allow for a comfortable pause of several deep breaths between techniques. You may want to return to or pause on one exercise for a longer time. Enjoy!

Emotion & Healing

The great spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, said, “Emotion tells us that the ever-increasing life-energy is constantly flowing through us, renewing and revitalizing our inner being.” 

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your breath. Observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body. Allow each breath to calm your body and mind; focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

Tune in to your current mood – ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Notice the subtle emotions without forcing a shift or trying to control anything. Simply observe and accept how you feel. (pause) Now, inhale and watch as your breath expands first your belly, then rises into and widens your chest. On your exhales, watch your breath as it descends, first contracting your chest then pressing your belly towards your spine. Keep this cycle going as you slow your breath, consciously making your exhales just a hair longer than your inhales. (pause)

Now visualize a blue sky. Watch as one cloud slowly passes. Then another. In between clouds, there are periods of bright blue sky. Emotions are like the clouds. They may come, but they always pass. Recall an obstacle or an issue that you are facing in your life. Visualize a cloud and inhale an awareness of the issue or obstacle in your life. The cloud may grow larger or darker. Focus on the issue and the image of the cloud. Now, exhale and release your awareness of the cloud and your trouble. Let your focus rest on a blue sky and a sense of ease. On your inhales, imagine a sensation of peace growing in the center of your chest. On your exhales, let the feeling of peace wash your troubles away.

The emotion life force is a gift, the blessing of terrestrial existence from Mother Nature. Feel that pulsation and connection to creation within you. (pause) 

Now, as you breathe in, become aware of all the forces and energies- millions of years of evolution coming together and creating your wondrous mind; the ability to create, to envision, to know ourselves. Bring your awareness to a single thought or a single word that speaks to you of your highest awareness. Examples include AUM, PEACE, LOVE, and GOD. On your inhales, repeat the word inwardly. Feel the emotion associated with the thought or word. On your exhales, visualize and feel that emotion shower down through your body. 

Continue with this technique for as long as you’d like. When you are ready to move on, release the inner repetition and return to an awareness of your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. 

Notice how you feel now and if your emotions have shifted since the start of the meditation. Remember that you have the power to disconnect from your emotions. Like clouds, they will always pass by and peace, blue skies, will come. Take a minute to breathe with the feeling you’ve created and try to hold on to that as you move on with your day.

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.


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A Guided Meditation Reflecting on Our Oneness With Nature.

This guided meditation is an opportunity to acknowledge the singularity of existence that we share with nature. It is a chance to summon the powers of nature within you for positive growth and change.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

Distinct From Nature

In the western world, society often lives distinct from nature, and we may associate nature with a sense of fear. We’ve seen imagery of animals fighting and hunting, we’ve heard the clash of thunder, and we may have experienced or witnessed a glimpse of the dramatic force nature can unleash between storms and natural disasters. 

This guided meditation is an opportunity to acknowledge the singularity of existence that we share with nature. It is a chance to summon the powers of nature within you for positive growth and change. By meditating on nature, we can dismantle the mental barrier that divides us from the roots of creation to bring about peace and connect with the source and sustainer of life.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science, divides nature into 5 essential elements: fire, air, water, earth, and ether. Fire is a transformative energy that stokes our desires and determination. It is associated with heat, the sun, as well as internal processes like digestion. Air also brings change. Its dynamic mobility gives birth to new ideas and goals, allowing us to move past obstacles and accept the newness of each moment. We can associate air with the wind as well as our breath. Water has a cleansing property as well as a connection to the depths of the inner world, our subconsciousness. Both our bodies and the planet are about 70 percent water, giving us a deep connection to the world we inhabit. Earth is a grounding and stabilizing element. It is the source of abundance that nourishes our bodies. Ether is the space that our physical reality inhabits. Whereas air is a composition of matter with specific properties, ether is the infinite space that extends beyond matter and also binds matter with its energetic force. Alone it could be perceived as emptiness, but it is infinitely expansive and allows for growth and creation. In your meditation, you can focus on these elements and their qualities to bring your awareness to the energies we share with nature.

Whether guiding yourself or another through this meditation, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Nature Meditation

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – perhaps the rise and fall of the belly, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, or the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

With each inhale, become aware of the force of Nature within you. Feel this life energy animate your skeleton, lifting your chest and lengthening your spine. Each inhalation brings awareness and alertness to your senses- the sounds near and far, the temperature, the feeling of your weight being supported by the ground beneath you, any pleasant aromas floating in the air. With each exhale, feel your body release and relax. (pause)

Inhale and recall a peaceful scene from nature. Whether you visualize the beach, mountains, or forest, move your eyes behind your eyelids from left to right, up and down taking in the different objects around. Perhaps you imagine animals grazing or birds flying up above. Imagine the sounds that would be present – a distant caw of a hawk or the sound of waves washing ashore. Feel the sun and the wind against your skin, the earth beneath you. Perhaps you can smell or even taste the pine or salt in the fresh air. Each exhale brings you a deeper sensation of serenity.  (pause)

The elements of nature – fire, air, water, earth, and ether – are the forces that drive creation, preservation, and transformation. Together, they enable the wonderful experience of life and beauty of the world in which we live. 

For each element, you will choose a primary quality and a visual image associated with the element. As you breathe in, visualize that image and feel the energy of the quality flowing into you. As you exhale, allow your body to release and relax, feeling the powers of nature within you. Repeat this exercise for several breath cycles for each element.

Starting with fire, you can visualize any image such as a candle or the sun. Choose an associated quality such as power, transformation, determination. 

For air, you may imagine the wind sweeping across the tall grass of a prairie or prayer flags flapping outside a hut high in the mountains. Some qualities you may choose include change, lightness, new goals.

For water, the many options for imagery include ocean waves, a still lake. The qualities include protection, nourishment, purity, intuition.

For earth, you might imagine a beautiful landscape or lush vegetation and choose a quality such as stability or nourishment (physical or spiritual).

For ether, you might think of outer space, the darkness in the expanses of our universe, or the subtle space between each cell in our body. You can choose any quality such as creativity, cohesion, expansion.

On your inhales, focus on one of the elements. Feel its qualities move through you – the heat and transformation of fire, refreshing tides of change that flow with air and water, the abundance and richness of the earth that nourishes and supports us, the peace and order of ether. Inhale a growing awareness of the properties of the element within you. With each exhale, feel the quality and the powers of nature flow through you. (pause)

When you are ready, inhale and invite your awareness back to your body and your senses. Tune back in to the sounds around you, your heart beat, your breath. Feel the deep connection and harmony you’ve created with nature and keep an awareness of the forces that are within you.

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Guided Meditation for Self-Love.

From our heart center, we can come to know our life’s purpose and a boundless love for ourselves and others, inviting a harmonious joy and sense of unity with the world. Opening your heart center requires devotion and positive intention.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

This guided meditation brings our awareness to our Heart Center. This is the seat of our soul where we can connect with the creator and all of creation. Most individuals identify only with their physical body and limited perspective, their ego. Through spiritual practice, however, one can progress by detaching their identity from their body to identify wholly with God. 

From our heart center, we can come to know our life’s purpose and a boundless love for ourselves and others, inviting a harmonious joy and sense of unity with the world. Opening your heart center requires devotion and positive intention.

Regarding the spiritual heart center, the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy wrote, 

You have to feel that there is something called the spiritual heart, which is inside the physical heart. Then you have to feel that inside the spiritual heart there is something called the soul. First open the heart-door. Once you are inside the heart, feel that you are trying to unlock another door.

That is the door of the soul.

You are the soul, which is unlimited. Your soul is infinitely powerful. Your soul defies all time and space.

Whether guiding yourself or another through these meditations, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Guided Meditation for Self-Love

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – the rise and fall of the belly, the chest, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

Begin to deepen and slow down your breath. Make each inhale and exhale smooth and steady. (pause) Now, inhale and imagine that you are taking in energy from the soles of your feet. Watch as the energy ascends through the back of your body to the crown of your head. Exhale and watch the energy descend down the front of your body back through the soles of the feet. Visualize the energy having a quality of light and purity, removing darkness and negativity from your body. Repeat this exercise for several breath cycles.

Now center your awareness in your spiritual heart located in the center of your chest. Connect with the rhythm of your heartbeat. To help, hold your breath at the top of an inhale for a few seconds. Simply observe your breath and heartbeat. (pause for several cycles of breath)

Keeping the awareness of your heartbeat, inhale and visualize a bright, warm, harmonious light deep, deep inside your being shining forth from the center of your chest. Exhale and feel this light carry divine love, peace, and bliss through your body. With each inhale, imagine the light intensifying and growing around you. Perhaps it has a color or movement. On your exhales, let the peaceful feelings grow within you as your body releases and relaxes.

Your heart center is the seat of your soul where harmonious union with the world resides. Unlocking that energy, you recognize the singularity of existence and foster a divine love within you for yourself and all of creation.

Return your awareness to your heartbeat. Observe how your body breathes itself free from your control. (pause) Take your awareness deeper within you. Visualize your body as a vehicle and your mind as an instrument for your soul. Try to locate your sense of self deep within your body. (pause)

Now, visualize a vast blue sky in the center of your chest. Floating in the center of the sky, in the center of your chest, is a bright blue flower. Inhale, and watch as the flower grows and blossoms. Give your flower a quality to harness: love, purity, humility, devotion, strength. On your exhale FEEL that quality growing within you, showering down through your body. Feel a radiant energy coursing through you. 

Continue with this or one of the previous exercises until you feel ready to end your meditation. 

When you are ready, gently invite your awareness back to your breath and the physical sensations of your body. Try to hold on to the feelings of peace, joy, and love that you’ve cultivated, remembering that your breath and awareness of the present are your portals back to the harmonious union with your soul and the rest of creation.

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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How To Stop Negative Thoughts & Emotions.

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

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I remember when I was in high school, I noticed that some days were good days, and some weren’t so good. I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that some days I felt great and other days not so much. At that time in high school, I wasn’t very conscious of my mind – it was just an overall mood. 

As I started to become interested in meditation, I started to notice more of my thought patterns. I realized why some days are really up days and some not so much, and it had a lot to do with the thoughts that were going on in my mind. 

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

It’s one thing to realize where the negative patterns came from –maybe it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you – “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that kind of thing. You should focus on this in life.” 

We can pick it up from a lot of places including our culture and even from a close relationship that goes bad. When some of the things that someone says to you are really negative, but you care really deeply for that person, you absorb what they say. 

Strategies For Dealing with Negative Thoughts

In the philosophy of meditation, there are two basic ways to deal with the negative thoughts. 

The first is through the use of your intellect. Sometimes you think of intellect as, “Oh, this person’s very intellectual” as if they were just thinking of abstract things all the time. In meditation and yoga philosophy, we use the term intellect to signify your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true or what’s false. Say someone put it in your mind the thought that you’re no good. You would go through life with that thought in your head. Through the practice of meditation, developing your intellectual mind, your discriminative mind, you would come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” That clarity of thought would eliminate the negative thought through the use of the power of your mind, your ability to discriminate truth from falsehood.

The other way which is recommended in yoga is that when one thought wave comes – let’s say a negative thought – you counter it with an opposite thought-wave. We have one wave coming this way and another is going against it. When they meet, they cancel each other out, and you have evenness of mind!

So, for example, if the negative thought patterns that are going on involve how angry you are at somebody – how much you hate them or even hate yourself, etc. – then the way to counter that is with the opposite which would be love, unconditional love. If the thoughts or emotions are about anger towards someone, then the opposite wave would be forgiveness, and that would cancel out the anger. This involves identifying what’s going on in your mind, and then bringing in an emotion, usually, that would cancel it out. For anger or upset-ness, the opposite would be forgiveness. For doubting yourself, confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery. Let’s say you doubt yourself, so you visualize yourself as weak, and feeble, without capacity. The opposite, then, would be to use imagery and see yourself as a powerful tiger or a big, powerful bear, or an elephant that can get through anything. Using your ability to meditate, you free your mind from pre-conceptions and change how you see yourself as well as your emotions; in that process, you realize how good it feels to shift your old patterns.

Confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself. Forgiving people feels so much better than holding on to anger. It just takes one or two times of realizing that and then it’s so easy to push through those things or to cancel them out.

Again, when dealing with your thought patterns, there are two meditation techniques that will help you to overcome the negative thoughts and emotions. The first is to develop your discrimination, separating truth from falsehood; and the second is the idea of bringing in the opposite thought or emotion to balance out whatever you’re being challenged by.

Try these out and see if they make a difference in your life!

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.


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Transcendental Idealism: What It Is & Why It Matters.

Transcendental Idealism is an age-old philosophy that finds expression in the West through the great German philosophers Kant, Fichte, and Shelling and in the East through Advaita Vedanta and, most notably in modern times, by Ramana Maharshi.

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My goal in this writing is two-fold. 

The first is to share the essence of the Transcendental Idealism teachings with you so that you can attain profound insights into yourself and life. 

The second is to help you create enough self awareness so that you can focus in on the core “I Am” reality which is the gateway into the transcendental realm; in the East, this is referred to as: Nirvana, Samadhi, Satori and Heaven.

Transcendental Idealism

Transcendental Idealism is an age-old philosophy that finds expression in the West through the great German philosophers Kant, Fichte, and Shelling and in the East through Advaita Vedanta and, most notably in modern times, by Ramana Maharshi. 

Reaching into the past I find wisdom that reinforces the journey of yoga and meditation. This essay will primarily reflect upon the writings of Johann Fichte. I find his exposition of transcendental idealism to be quite accessible. His teachings echo and elaborate on the great teachings of the East. I have taken passages from Fichte’s The Vocation of Man, which was written in 1800, and added my commentary and explanations. I have put his words in italics.

In parenthesis are the page number the quotation is taken from referencing the Peter Preuss translation published by Hackett Publishing Company in 1987. 

The Vocation of Man

This writing, which Fichte hoped would make Transcendental Idealism accessible to a general public, takes the form of a dialogue two subjects: Spirit and I.

Spirit: What I can teach you you already know. You only need to call it to mind. (27)

The purpose of life and hence the title, The Vocation of Man, according to philosophy and Fichte, is to know oneself and the world of which we are a part. The writing style used by Fichte is similar to that of Plato. He uses a discussion between two entities: the reader, noted as I, and a wonderous Spirit referred to as Spirit. The Spirit knows the truth of things and, through a series of questions, draws out the wisdom inherent in I. Through introspection cued by the questions, the reader is able to recall the wisdom that has always been there below the surface. 

Spirit: You assume, don’t you, that these objects here and those over there really are there outside of you?

I: Yes, of course. (27)

Here we have the departure point for this philosophical journey. From here we will explore the nature of being, reality and knowledge. We take our sense of reality for granted. This is an exploration that will reveal the wonders of existence that we rarely take the time to explore.

Spirit: And how do you know that they are there?

I:  I see them, I will feel them if I touch them, I can hear their sound, they manifest themselves to me through all my senses. (28)

Now begins the process of taking apart our perceptions. We all know we are surrounded by a world of things and we are one of the things in the world. We know the world and ourselves through our senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. We trust our senses, and they form the basis of all knowledge about the world around us. Or so we think! Fichte will now challenge us, through Spirit, to examine our perceptions. 

Fichte is doing this for a specific purpose. Spiritual philosophy would call this liberation. Later in the writing Spirit says the following regarding the attainment that can be had through a complete understanding of this teaching: Be free and forever released from the fear which depressed and tortured you. (59)

Understanding what we can gain by truly grasping this philosophy will inspire us to concentrate. Let’s return to the beginning of the dialogue.

Spirit: Perceivable objects, then, are present to you solely in consequence of a determination [perception/awareness/noticing] of your external sense… your seeing, feeling, etc. 

“There are objects outside of me” is supported by the statement, “I see, hear, feel, etc.” 

I: That is my view.

Spirit: Well, and how do you know that you see, hear, feel? (28)

This seems, on the surface, like an absurd question, but it challenges us to reflect on our process of knowing. One of the key questions of philosophy can be summed up as: how do we know what we know?

And that is the key question which Spirit poses: how do you know?

Spirit also wants to be sure that I experience my senses directly and that seeing, hearing etc. are not transmitted to me via another sense. 

I: That I see and feel, and what I see and feel, I know directly and simply; I know it just because it is so, without the mediation and transmission by way of another sense. (28)

There are two points being made here. The first thing being established is the reality of me, the observer: it is I who am perceiving the sense impressions. The second point is that I am perceiving my senses directly: what I see and feel is perceived by me directly and not through some other intermediary sense that stands between me and my hearing etc. 

Spirit confirms this by asking: 

Do you see your own seeing and feel your own feeling; or do you perhaps have a special, higher sense through which you perceive your external senses and their determinations?

I: Not at all, what I see and feel, and what I see and feel. I know simply and directly. (28)

Fichte is deconstructing the process of how we experience our surroundings: we experience our surroundings through sense impressions. 

Spirit: You are, accordingly, that which sees in seeing, that which feels in feeling…are you conscious of a determination or modification of yourself? (28)

I: Without doubt.

Through this last exchange we can deduce two ideas upon which Transcendental Idealism is built. Firstly: there is a core sense of self, “I”, which observes the impressions of the senses. The second point: what one perceives is a modification in one’s own field of awareness. One does not perceive anything beyond one’s own field of awareness. We mentally project a cause from which perception arises. I, the character talking to Spirit, still assumes, at this point in the conversation, that that which is perceived is outside of one’s self. The point is that what I perceive is actually a change in my field of awareness.

For example: I close my eyes and listen carefully. Within my field of awareness I perceive a sound I have never heard before. The sound has pitch, duration, intensity and timbre. I assume the sound I experience has a cause even though my eyes are closed and I cannot see it. I then begin to mentally project a cause outside of me that is responsible for the sound I hear. 

We often lose awareness of our sense impressions and focus only on thought projections. We tend to think the same thoughts, however, and quickly become bored with them. Reconnecting with the modifications of consciousness that occur every moment of our lives is a good way to reconnect with the joy of living. The mystery of life begins with two essential elements which Spirit points to: our sense of being and the modifications which occur in our field of awareness at each moment.

Spirit: You have an awareness of your seeing, feeling, etc., and in that way you perceive the object. (28)

Spirit: Could you not perhaps know an object through sight or hearing without knowing that you are seeing or hearing? (29)

I: Not at all.

What is perceived is perceived because I perceive. I, one’s sense of self, is central to perception. Without me, the observer, there is no awareness of sense impressions. 

We often become so immersed in our thoughts and worries that we forget about ourselves. This section of the dialogue draws out the significance of the observer in every act of perception. 

Spirit: Could you…perhaps know an object through sight or hearing without knowing that you are seeing of hearing?

I: Not at all. (29)

In other words, for sensation to exist, there must be an observer.

Spirit: The immediate consciousness of yourself … would therefore be the necessary condition of all other consciousness…

I: This is what I think. (29)

Once again, the significance of the observer is noted.

Spirit: In all perception you initially perceive only yourself and your own condition; and what is not contained in this perception is not perceived at all? 

I: You are repeating what I have already admitted. (29)

And now Spirit elucidates a key point: all we can perceive is the modifications in our consciousness. We are not aware however of the actual cause, the external object. We perceive only our own condition.

Spirit: Can you say: I am aware of external objects? 

I: Definitely not…

Spirit: Well, then, never forget again what you have now clearly seen to be so. In all perception you only perceive your own condition. (29)

This thought is built upon further in the text when Spirit explains how we mentally project the existence of external objects through the conditioned mental habit of associating effect with cause. 

To put this subtle teaching into another voice I quote Arthur J. Deikman, M.D. from his book: The Observing Self: Pyschotherapy and Mysticism.

“Emotions, thoughts, impulses, images, and sensations are the contents of consciousness: we witness them; we are aware of their existence. Likewise, the body, the self-image, and the self-concept are all constructs that we observe. But our core sense of personal existence—the “I”—is located in awareness itself, not in its content.”

In his writing, Fichte has focused on the experiencing of sensations which are mentioned in the first line of the above quotation from Deikman. Later in Fichte’s writings he elucidates on other aspects of the contents of consciousness which Deikman mentions: emotions, thoughts and impulses.

Deikman notes that there is the observer and the observed. He describes our observing self as the “core sense of personal existence.”  Fichte is describing the same reality when he has Spirit say, “In all perception you initially perceive only yourself and your own condition.”

First the observer becomes aware of self. Then changes or modifications in perception can be noted. It is important to realize that all of this takes place at a very subtle realm of our awareness and is easily overlooked. Through the practices of meditation, self-observation and contemplation, you can begin to observe the process within yourself. This new level of awareness will move you closer and closer to a deeper understanding of yourself and reality. 

Please try this Meditation-Visualization so that you can use your knowledge to become more conscious of your experience of life.

Meditation Visualization

Focus on your breath. Breathe as slowly as is comfortable. Allow your body to relax more and more deeply with each exhalation. Imagine you are sitting by the side of a river. 

Stay rooted in an awareness of your breathing. Observe the sensations, thoughts and emotions that come and go through your awareness. Your breath is your sense of self, you are sitting by the stream. The stream is the endless flow of thoughts.

When you drift away in a stream of thoughts bring yourself back to your breath as soon as you become aware that you’ve drifted away. 

Rooted in your breathing, observe the flow of thoughts and emotions. With each inhalation try to become more conscious of that part of yourself that watches – become aware of yourself, the observer. Sink into that feeling of self that is constant and steady while the content of consciousness comes and goes. 

Spirit: You see, hear, feel things, you said. How, that is, with what properties do you see or feel them?

I: I see that object to be red, this one to be blue; I will, when I touch them, feel this one to be smooth, that one to be rough, this one cold, that one warm. (29)

The wonderous Spirit continues to help the reader to inquire into the nature of perception. Of the five senses this dialogue currently focuses in on the senses of sight and touch. At other times other senses will be referenced. The same principles apply to all of the senses.

Spirit: You know therefore what that is: red, blue, smooth, rough, cold, warm? 

I: Indeed I do.

Spirit: Will you describe it to me?

I: That cannot be described. (29)

Direct sense perception cannot be described, it must be experienced. Words can be written and shared, thoughts can be put into sentences and information conveyed, but sensation is different. Fichte goes on to show that reasoning is a different aspect of mind than sense perception. If I have seen yellow and green but have never seen red, you cannot transmit the experience of red to me through reasoning or comparison. Red must be directly experienced. He spells out the point here: 

Spirit: But can one not at least, once one has come to know some properties through immediate perception, derive others which are different from them by reasoning? If, e.g., someone had seen red, green, yellow, but never the color blue, or had tasted something sour, sweet, salty, but never anything bitter, could such a one not come to know, merely by thinking and comparing, what blue or bitter are, without seeing or tasting anything of the kind? 

I: By no means. What is a matter of perception may only be perceived, not thought; it is not something derived, but something simply immediate. (30)

Perception is immediate, thought is derived. The two experiences are quite different modifications of the mind. 

Deeper Into Visualization

Take a moment to sit quietly with your eyes gently closed. Focus in on your breathing.  

Now open your eyes and pick something in your field of vision; focus in on the color and the experience of that particular color. 

Now close your eyes and become aware of other sense impressions. The sounds around you, the temperature of your surroundings, scents in the air, the feeling of your body in contact with the chair. Simply focus in on these sensations and the sensation of your breathing for a minute or so.

Become aware of thoughts that arise. Note the difference between sensations and thoughts. Let the thoughts flow by. Stay rooted in sensation. Observe how sensation is a different form of your mind than thoughts or memories. Now observe how each time a sensation arises you link it to a thought in the form of an image of what you think is the cause of this sense impression. This is your mind projecting reality through the deeply engrained mental construct of cause and effect. 

Now, as you breath in become aware of yourself, the observer of the sensations. You are not the sensations; you are the observer of the sensations. Focus on yourself, the observer. Try this for a minute or two. You will notice your awareness shifting back to that which you are sensing or to passing thoughts. Each time that occurs simply bring your awareness back to yourself the witness. 

Through this technique you will begin to be able to distinguish between three different modifications of mind: sensation, thought, and the observer. We forget about ourselves and get lost in thought and the pendulum of pain and pleasure. Reconnecting with sense of self and staying rooted in that awareness is deeply fulfilling. 

The dialogue now reconfirms an earlier point:

I: …the perception of objects has its origin in the perception of my own condition and is determined by it…I first distinguish objects by distinguishing my own condition. (30-31)

This is the awareness of “I Am.”

Now we shift gears and inquire into how we go from basic sense impressions to creating our sense of reality.

Spirit: …you should be content to say: I feel myself affected in the manner which I call red, blue, smooth, rough. You should locate these sensations only in yourself, without transferring them to an object lying totally outside of you and purporting something to be properties of this object which after all is only your own modification. (31)

I: Transference of something which is only in me onto something outside of me, from which I cannot refrain I now find most remarkable.

 I sense in myself, not in the object…; I therefore sense only myself and my condition and not the condition of the object. (31)

This transference, which is mentioned in the preceding quote, will now be explored. Through this largely unconscious process, which we begin to develop in our early childhood, we project—transfer—modifications in our consciousness onto our surroundings. 

Each one of us constructs our own sense of reality. Modifications take place in our awareness and we project a solid world surrounding us causing these experiences. Through these philosophical insights and the two meditation-visualization exercises, you now have the knowledge and tools to root into the core of your being.

Fichte did not stop here. He goes on to show how we generate our sense of space, time and causality and hence create our reality. I will leave that exploration for a future writing. I’ll end with Spirit’s hopeful words to those who have taken the time to explore this writing.

Spirit: …no longer fear being oppressed by things which are your own products, no longer place yourself, the thinker, into the same class as objects of thought issuing from you yourself…. Now, after you have seen that all this is only in and through yourself, you will without doubt not be afraid of what you have recognized as your own creature…. I wanted to liberate you (60)

Namaste

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Design 101: How to Achieve the Perfect Feng Shui Interior Design.

Feng shui is popular in the interior design. The main goal of placing everything where it should be is creating an atmosphere that will affect your mind, stress level and comfort – without you even noticing it!

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Feng shui is popular in the interior design. This art of creating a space that’s detailed and organized turns every home into the most comfortable space you could live in. Apart from that, it also creates energy that can’t be manufactured in any other way. Such a natural flow is always welcomed, especially if you want to live a healthy life and dedicate your time to taking your life to the next level. The main goal of placing everything where it should be is creating an atmosphere that will affect your mind, stress level and comfort – without you even noticing it!

Let the sunshine in

An abundance of natural light is essential for achieving good Feng shui energy in your home, so always try to keep your curtains open. Sunlight is good for getting our energy levels up and it’s so much better than light fixtures. People living in a bright space feel more relaxed, and their mood is more natural. That’s why you can notice the change in your mood as soon as you open up your space to natural light, and this will soon become a part of your daily routine.

Apart from that, it’s recommended to keep the windows open as well because of the fresh air. This is sometimes hard for people to get used to, but fresh air is important for lots of things, including great energy in our home. It keeps us fresh and energetic, minimizing our constant tiredness.

The placement of the bed

You’ve probably never thought about how your bed should be positioned and which direction it should face. There’s one rule you need to start following first: never place a bed below the window, because it needs a much safer structure. Instead of that, place your bed on the opposite side of your door, but never directly facing it.

You should also avoid having a mirror in your bedroom and, as much as we all like playing dress up in there, this will create negative energy, so it’s better to avoid having mirrors. It goes without saying that all the electronics also shouldn’t be anywhere close to your bed because they aren’t good for your rest and sleep cycle, which means you should keep them in your home office or a dedicated working area instead.

Feng shui décor

Having a bookcase in your home is more than recommended because not only can this addition serve as an effective space divider, but it will also encourage your learning process. If you don’t have that many books, you can always add different types of Feng shui decorations and fill up space. Different scented candles and sticks will be perfect for creating a relaxing atmosphere too, but it will also blend in perfectly with the rest of the décor.

When it comes to textures, you can play with different natural materials and create an appealing and sophisticated interior. By using different floor rugs, you’ll create a space that’s rich with materials and a sense of comfort which is exactly what you need in a relaxing home. Don’t forget to use different colors as well – with the earthly tones leading the way, of course – because colors play a major role in a Feng shui design. Avoid bright colors or too many colors in one space because that will have the opposite effect from what you’re looking for.

Yoga and meditation

Practicing yoga is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, and if you have a space that’s already decorated and organized in accordance with the Feng shui principle, there’s no reason not to introduce it into your life. If you’re already a fan of yoga, you know the importance of having a space that’s dedicated to health and peace, which is exactly what this design will provide.

If you like to meditate, you’ll need a corner specifically designed for meditation, because changing the area where you meditate too frequently is far from good. Due to that, think about a space in your home where you’ll feel relaxed and won’t be bothered by your family members. Many people choose their bedroom because of the tranquility it provides and all the positive energy that’s already in this space. Consider an area that you can tailor to your yoga session or meditation process, and get everything you need in just one place.

Once you start using Feng shui principles in your home, you’ll notice a positive change they bring into your life. Sometimes it’s not just about the furniture we use in our living space, but about positioning everything and organizing our home so that it’s comfortable and practical. With all these changes, you’ll soon want to introduce more and more healthy things into your lifestyle, and this is something that’s going to benefit you and the quality of your life.


About the author


CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator
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A Guided Visualization Meditation For Inner Strength: The Elk.

Take a few more cycles of breath here and visualize the magnificent elk at your third eye chakra in the middle of your forehead and repeat to yourself: I am strong, I am powerful, I am connected to all things.

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Imagine you’re walking along the ridge of a snowy mountain on a sunny day in January. The sky is a solid dome of royal blue, enclosing the path where you walk in an idyllic alpine globe. The air is cold on your cheeks, but you’re dressed warmly and you feel snug and comfortable. You love hiking in the mountains and feel at peace here.

You share the mountainside with statuesque pine trees lightly dusted with snow, and the playful chattering of birds. The leaves of the aspen trees flutter in the breeze, making the whole mountainside appear to quiver.

As the path bends to the right, you look up at the rugged cliffs slated with snow, like white stair steps sparkling in the brilliant sun. As the path narrows and begins to climb, you slow and shorten your stride to keep from slipping on the loose rocks. You pause to take a breath and look up to where the path leads.

There staring down at you is an enormous elk, standing on the lip of the cliff. You inhale sharply, the bite of chilled air fills your throat. The elk’s head is raised and his antlers reach out like strong branches of a tree. The dark wooly mane and muscular flank strike an imposing, imperious presence. Dark eyes assess you curiously and you stare back, completely captivated by the strength and beauty of this great animal. Surprisingly, you are not afraid. In fact, being in this powerful animal’s proximity you feel a profound sense of safety and even kinship.

Drawn by a mysterious force you begin to climb the steep ridge toward him, and you marvel at your own courage. You climb the loose rocks as strong and sure-footed as if you too were born on this mountain. Once level with the great animal, the tracks of your boots mark the snowy path companionably beside his two-pronged hoof-prints. You regard each other for awhile in what feels like a timeless dimension.

The elk then lifts his large head toward the sky and bellows deeply. You close your eyes and feel the resounding vibration in your chest. You breathe in a quality of strength, power, and connection as the sound reverberates throughout the mountainside and echoes down to the valley below. A sense of oneness with the elk fills your heart and with all living things that make this mountain residence their home.

When you open your eyes, the elk is gone. In his place, nothing but the blue-dome sky, the gentle breeze and chirping of birds. You stand still, breathing in the wonder of the moment and feel quite changed, stronger somehow, more centered and at ease.

You begin to make your way back down the mountain to your cabin at a comfortable pace, finding no reason to rush. You feel a deep sense of reverence with these wonders of nature. The shadows of the trees on the snow grow longer as the sun begins its slow descent, the air crisp and still.

You imagine a warm bowl of soup and freshly baked bread waiting for you back at the cabin, sitting in your favorite chair next to a vibrant fire in the hearth. You breathe in a sense of gratitude simply for being alive.

It occurs to you that the qualities of strength, power and connection the elk imparted were already within you, to be called upon whenever you need them, the elk was there simply as a powerful reminder of your inherent gifts that need only to be noticed, recognized, embraced.

You understand so fully now that you are connected to the strength and power of all things in nature.

Take a few more cycles of breath here and visualize the magnificent elk at your third eye chakra in the middle of your forehead and repeat to yourself: I am strong, I am powerful, I am connected to all things.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Hansen completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga. She teaches traditional mat-based classes as well as chair yoga and beginning meditation to seniors. She is particularly drawn to guided visualization meditation techniques for the immediate access to the expansiveness of our imagination and creativity, and believes that when we transport the mind to a place of beauty and serenity, bolstered by symbolic imaging and the power of intention, we can bring positive change and healing into our lives. Judy is a published poet and dedicated journaler. 

The mind cannot tell the difference between an actual, ‘real-life’ event and a vividly imagined one.” 

Denis Waitley, counselor to Olympic athletes and Apollo astronauts

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How Does Oil Pulling Work? A Dentist’s Perspective.

To learn more about the efficacy of oil pulling, you need to review how the process emerged. This ancient Ayurvedic process recently has received testimonials in the press. Both celebrities and social media users have proclaimed the practice, and stories abound that oil pulling or “toxin” pulling cures bad breath, whitens and cleans the teeth, and reduces the inflammation that leads to gum disease.

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Have you ever wondered if oil pulling works?

If so, you are not alone.

In fact, I get this question quite often from my dental patients in San Diego, and this question seems to be on the rise. To say the least, there are over 54,000 searches regarding the word “oil pulling” on a monthly basis:

So if you are wondering if oil pulling will help your dental hygiene, let’s find out!

 

An Introduction to Oil Pulling

 

To learn more about the efficacy of oil pulling, you need to review how the process emerged. This ancient Ayurvedic process recently has received testimonials in the press. Both celebrities and social media users have proclaimed the practice, and stories abound that oil pulling or “toxin” pulling cures bad breath, whitens and cleans the teeth, and reduces the inflammation that leads to gum disease.

In fact, in Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text on Indian medicine references oil pulling and it benefits by stating –

“It is beneficial for the strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep-rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables.”

– Charaka Samhita Ch V. 78 to 80.

This supposed miracle cure-all involves swishing an organic oil, such as sunflower oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil, in the mouth for around 20 minutes. However, just like most natural remedies, these claims and the practice, itself, does not enjoy the support of the scientific community.

But, as an open-minded dentist, I wanted to know if this was a good or bad thing for my patients.

 

Does Oil Pulling Get Rid of Plaque?

 

Proponents of oil pulling state that swishing the oil around in the mouth gets rid of plaque. However, dentists, as well as most dental patients, know that plaque can also be eliminated by –

  • Rinsing with a mouthwash;
  • Chewing a sugar-free gum; or
  • Simply rinsing the mouth with water for about 20 minutes each day.

All of the above options work to increase the saliva and keep plaque from sticking to the teeth. Dental patients often find it easier to rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash—one prescribed by the American Dental Association (ADA)—that is available in various flavors or strengths.

While Ayurvedic oil pulling may get rid of some stubborn plaque, you still need pressure from a dental tool or aid, such as floss or a toothbrush. You might say that chewing on a twig can do the same thing too. This technique is yet another ancient way to remove plaque from the teeth. In fact, chewing on a twig is even more ancient than using oil for dental health.

Twigs as a toothbrush? Don’t believe me? (see a 3,000-year-old toothbrush)

According to the ADA (American Dental Association)

 

If you want to know the exact stand the ADA takes on oil pulling, you can reference the following quote, summarized as follows:

Currently, . . . no reliable [evidence suggests] that oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth, or improves oral health. . . . Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the [ADA] does not [prescribe] oil pulling as a . . . practice. The ADA [recommends] . . . [brushing] twice a day . . . with a fluoride toothpaste and [flossing] between the teeth [daily]. . . .” The ADA also advises that patients do not use tobacco. . . .”

Nevertheless, studies  (Pubmed returns 54 research papers) are still being conducted about the efficacy of oil pulling. Some researchers admit that oil pulling may have beneficial effects. Therefore, some of the scientists are not completely ruling out this hygiene practice, or believe that the public has succumbed to some type of oil pulling hoax.

For example, one study compared oil pulling with the use of a chlorhexidine mouthwash. Chlorhexidine mouthwash is a prescription rinse that features antibacterial properties. These properties prevent the formation of gum disease. However, the same rinse can also cause the formation of brown stains on the teeth. Therefore, this type of mouthwash can only be used short-term.

Comparing Oil Pulling with the Use of a Chlorhexidine Mouthwash

The comparison of using this short-term rinse and oil pulling following:

 

While oil pulling is not contraindicated for use in other diseases or by pregnant women, a chlorhexidine mouthwash should not be used when a person is sick with another disease or during pregnancy. Experts recommend that children, 5 years or under, should not oil pull.

 

How to Do Oil Pulling Correctly?

 

Oil pulling should be performed in the morning, or before eating. If you are wondering if oil pulling before or after brushing is preferred, you should always practice oil pulling before brushing.

Here Are Some Steps To Follow

  1. You should take about 10 ml or one tablespoon of organic oil.
  2. The solution should be swished around in the mouth for around 15 to 20 minutes before spitting it out.
  3. Never swallow the oil, as it may contain bacteria and toxins.
  4. Follow the practice by rinsing, and brushing and flossing the teeth, as usual.

Because regular oil pulling also combines the practice with routine flossing and brushing, scientists suggest that oil pulling can be used as an adjunct to dental health. One study that appeared in the International Journal of Health Sciences supports this conclusion.

According to researchers, a number of studies have been performed that support the use of oil pulling. This published study supports the use of oil pulling in developing countries or in remote locations, where toothpaste, toothbrushes, or mouthwashes are limited. In these instances, scientists suggest that oil pulling can provide a cost-effective option for supporting dental health.

Does Oil Pulling Really Work?

 

Given that oil pulling for teeth receives the support of some dental patients and is questioned by others, scientists still need to review all aspects of the practice. As noted, usually three types of organic oils are typically used for oil pulling teeth whitening or oil pulling for cavities ( sunflower oil, sesame seed oil, or coconut oil). Many people like to use sesame oil or prefer to find the best coconut oil for oil pulling purposes.

While you can receive the same bacteria-fighting advantages with organic oils, such as sunflower oil or sesame oil, you have an added benefit when oil pulling with coconut oil. That is because coconut oil contains lauric acid – a substance well-known among doctors for its anti-microbial properties.

By using coconut oil, you may even prevent tooth decay. While it may not reverse a cavity that has formed, the oil will reduce the strep mutans bacteria that are found in saliva and plaque. These bacteria may  lead to the development of cavities.

You may ask, “Does oil pulling work for growing back receding gums? Or, do receding gums grow back from oil pulling? While you may not see the re-emergence of gum tissue, you can tighten and condition the gums. As noted, this adjunct form of treatment is not the cure-all for tooth and gum health. However, it does support regular flossing and brushing – at least that is what the current research supports.

 

Oil Pulling – How Often Should It Be Done

 

When you first practice oil pulling, or if you decide to take up the routine, you may wonder how you should begin. After all, swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes can become quite time-consuming, if not tiresome.

To acclimate yourself to the process, start the activity by spending five minutes a day swishing the oil. You will remove a good deal of bacteria after just five minutes. Also, if your jaw begins to ache, you need to slow your pace. You do not have to use a lot of force. Gently swish, suck, and push the oil through the teeth for the best effect.

“Less Is More”

Because you should never swallow the oil, spit out the oil if you find you have too much in your mouth. Again, you only need to use about a tablespoon. Remember, “less is more,” when it comes to swishing. Also, never spit out the oil down the sink, lest you be plagued with a clogged drain. Simply spit out the oil in a trash can after you are done.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The before and after benefits of oil pulling seems to be encouraging for some people, but, there isn’t enough scientific research to back up these claims. As long as dental patients follow the practice by also brushing and flossing teeth regularly, oil pulling may benefit some people who decide to try this practice.

Any dentist will tell you that you should never replace oil pulling with brushing and flossing and routine dental visits. Once more, this alternative approach to tooth and gum care supplements the benefits you receive from brushing, flossing, and using a  mouthwash each day.

My sincere hope is that this helped clear up some confusion regarding “oil pulling” and oral hygiene. If you have any questions I practice dental care  in Carmel Mountain at Smiles By Design San Diego with Over 400 Five Star happy patient reviews.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Javaheri has participated in extensive research and has been published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the UC Davis Medical Center. He is a graduate of the prestigious NYU college of dentistry and helps patients with their cosmetic dentistry needs in San Diego, CA.

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How To Improve Mindfulness & Integrate Into Your Daily Routine.

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment.

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Right now, mindfulness might seem like a buzzword.

Myriad brands have incorporated mindfulness into their messaging, and everyday there seems like a new app that caters towards helping one achieve a “mindful practice” in their day-to-day life.

 

But mindfulness isn’t a just buzzword—it’s vitally important to maintaining personal wellness. You also don’t need to buy a bunch of new products or eat a certain brand of yogurt to achieve it. Mindfulness can be incorporated into your life for free, and with a little bit of practice, you can build lasting habits that’ll make you a happier and healthier person.

Here are some of  tips on how to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life:

 

No Screens Before & After Sleeping

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment. A great way to start is by putting away smartphones and other electronic devices an hour before bed, and trying not to touch them again until an hour after you’re awake. 

 

 

Notice What You Spend Money On

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched Marie Kondo’s new show. If you haven’t, it’s all about pairing down one’s belongings to only the things that “spark joy.” This approach isn’t only useful when you’re purging your home and in the throes of organizing, it’s also extremely useful when you’re shopping. Think carefully about each purchase, whether big or small. If something makes you happy, why? Make sure everything has a unique and productive purpose. This means thinking about the impact of your purchasing decisions.

 

By the same token, don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re determining what that purpose is. For example, if you’re shopping for home decor, and you happen upon a quilt that makes you happy because the patterns or colors delight you, that’s enough. Things don’t have to have some big, grand reason behind them… but they do have to be authentic.

 

 

Focus on Gratitude

 

Gratitude isn’t an attitude we stumble upon, it’s an attitude that requires cultivation. Take some time out of your day—maybe at lunch, or during some downtime after work—and consider the things you’re thankful for. I find that writing it down in a notebook or journal is particularly helpful, especially since you’re able to return to previous pages and see what kinds of trends emerge. But do whatever works for you. If just thinking it through alone helps, then that’s your strategy.

 

 

Eat Intentionally

 

With our increasingly busy schedules, this can be one of the most difficult steps to integrate habitually. When you’re eating a meal, notice every bite. Don’t rush through it, trying to get fuel into your body. You may also find that you’re hungrier (or less hungry!) than you thought. This is essential to getting in touch with your body, and a cornerstone of healthy eating habits more generally. You don’t have to be perfect and get it right all at once, either. Next time you grab a bag of potato chips, savor each bite. Taste the salt, enjoy the crunch. Even pay attention to the crinkle of the bag. See how it changes the experience, if it changes it at all. When you’re eating, commit to doing just that one thing.

 

 

Pay Attention To Breathing

 

This can be done anywhere. Breathing practices are commonly implemented in meditation and yoga classes, but there’s no reason you can’t keep your breathing in mind during exercise or at your desk at work. In moments of stress, or moments where the world seems to be going too fast around you, take a minute to just breathe. One deep breath in, and one deep breath out. If you’re interested in going slightly more in depth, set some time aside before bed, or first thing when you wake up to work on breathing practices. To begin, search “pranayama”—there’s a wealth of breathing practices available on our site.

 

Meditate

Meditation is the big one, isn’t it? It’s the tip that you’re going to hear no matter what, especially if you’re thinking about mindfulness. Meditation looks a million different ways, and it’s all about finding what serves you most effectively. If it seems overwhelming, try to start with guided meditations. Not only are there dozens of free apps on Android and iOS that can help if you use Bluetooth on your commute, but there are also free YouTube videos. Meditations can also have different intentions too, like meditations geared specifically towards sleep, focus, or calmness. Explore it, and try it at different times. One great time to meditate is right before you wake up—it’s a great way to get you started for your day.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

 

 

 

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A Complete Poem Analysis of Emerson’s Brahma.

Brahma was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a spiritual and intellectual giant of American history. In this 16- line poem we are able to explore significant foundations of Eastern and Western philosophy.

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The essence of spirituality and Hinduism is synthesized in the poem Brahma by the American philosopher, writer and poet Emerson. This poem touches on essential themes of metaphysics and spirituality while simultaneously being applicable to our daily lives.

Brahma was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a spiritual and intellectual giant of American history. In this 16- line poem we are able to explore significant foundations of Eastern and Western philosophy. Emerson and his fellow Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, were among the first in America to explore the crown jewels of Indian philosophy: the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita dates back to before the time of Christ, and recounts the conversation between the spiritual teacher Krishna and his heroic disciple Arjuna on the battle field of Kurushetra in ancient India. The Upanishads may well predate ancient Egypt and weave spiritual lessons into timeless stories including the tale of Nachiketas journeying into the realm of death to atone for the sins of his father. In Nachiketas discussion with Yama, the Lord of Death, the mysteries of life and death are revealed.

These two source writings can provide a lifetime of inspiration. Swami Vivekananda, one of the first Indian yogis to come to America, first speaking at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, carried with him two books from India. One was the Bhagavad-Gita.

Take a slow read through the poem written by Emerson in 1856, five years before the start of the Civil War, and then we will explore the main themes and see how we can apply them to our lives.

Brahma
By Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the red slayer think he slays, 
  Or if the slain think he is slain, 
They know not well the subtle ways 
  I keep, and pass, and turn again. 

Far or forgot to me is near;
  Shadow and sunlight are the same; 
The vanished gods to me appear; 
  And one to me are shame and fame. 

They reckon ill who leave me out; 
  When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt, 
  And I the hymn the Brahmin sings. 

The strong gods pine for my abode, 
  And pine in vain the sacred Seven; 
But thou, meek lover of the good!
  Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will take one stanza at a time in order to unravel the depth and beauty of this poem.

First Stanza: The Eternal Nature of the Soul

The poem speaks in the first person. It is the voice of one who has reached the pinnacle of spiritual illumination. The insights echo first hand experiences of illumined saints and sages from all traditions while the imagery and framework are from Hinduism. It is also the voice of Brahma, who in the Hindu religion is the ultimate God. Hinduism has many gods, just as the Bible has many saints and angels and archangels; but the supreme God in Christianity is the Father and in Hinduism the word used is Brahma.

The red slayer can represent anyone who kills and the message of the first stanza is that death is not the end of existence. Most people live in constant fear of growing old and death. We fear pain and the idea of non-existence. Our society pushes death away from our eyes while glorifying youth. Death is a transition to a more subtle realm and from the careful observation of the death process we can learn so much. The red slayer is also symbolic of Kali the Hindu goddess of death and transformation. She is often portrayed carrying a sword with blood dripping from it; hence the red-slayer.

Emerson approaches the immortality of the soul both from the vantage point of he who thinks he can destroy others: the red slayer, and the vantage point of she who fears death. The “subtle ways” referred to is the subtle existence of the soul, which is hidden from the view of most people because their minds are bounded by material objects.

Second Stanza: Non-Duality

The second stanza is from the same point of view but this stanza reflects the viewpoint of one who has transcended duality. The four dualistic conceptions that no longer affect the speaker are far/ near; remembered/ forgotten; shadow/ sunlight; vanished / appearing; and shame / fame.

Dualistic thinking emerges from undifferentiated consciousness. Through meditation and deep prayer one can enter the realm of pure consciousness. In that state there is no duality; hence fame and shame are the same.

Think of a glass of water. The water is one entity. If you shake the glass there will be waves and water will splash, that is the moment of duality. If you see only the splashes you will think of the water as separate units but if you know the source you will know that ultimately all the water is one. It is the same with shame and fame. They appear different yet at a deeper level they are both the same: human experience from which we grow.

The second stanza points to the idea that ultimately the differences we observe in ourselves and the world dissolve as we begin to understand that our mind itself is the creator of what we perceive and the differences we observe.

The same principle applies the physical world: that which was lost can become found and that which was near can become far. What is far from one person can be near to another. Hence reality depends on our vantage point and how we relate to our vantage point is determined by our minds, not by any external control system.

Third Stanza: All is God

These four lines speak to the idea that all activity, efforts and results are ultimately the same energy. I am reminded of the story of a man who had been though a troubled time and he looked back upon his journey and saw his footsteps in the sand and thought, “Why did God leave me all alone in this time of trail.” God’s voice answered back, “Those are my footstep, I carried you through the challenges.”

Hopefully we get daily inspiration to read, exercise, pray and do other things that give us joy. We think it is us who need to create the inspiration. The poem says that ultimately all comes from the Source. There is no difference between the seeker, the prayer offered and the God who hears it. The poem says, “I am the doubter and the doubt.” Normally we think of ourselves as separate from our thoughts and our thoughts separate from the world. This stanza says that ultimately all is one and that the Ultimate energy is in the each aspect of our devotion and aspiration: “And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.” Brahmins are the priestly class in Indian society.

Fourth Stanza: The Meek Shall Inherit the World

The final stanza proclaims the majesty of the “meek lover of the good.” Brahma says that many long to enter the ultimate realm of existence but that it is the individual who is meek and loves goodness that will be able to enter the realm of the truly sacred. This echoes Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount.

Notice the last line, “Find me and turn your back on heaven.” The insight here is that heaven is a conception in our minds, a thought based dream, a hope, that we carry with us. In experiencing the realm of Brahma the seeker goes beyond the world of thought and has the direct experience of the Ultimate Reality. At that time one goes beyond ideas and conceptions and hence can “turn your back on heaven,” and instead be in the Ultimate.

In Conclusion

It is important to note that Emerson was not writing from a theoretical or solely scholarly vantage point. In his essay Nature Emerson recounts a mystical experience that he has while walking through the woods on afternoon: his third eye, the mind’s eye of internal vision, opens up and he describes the experience of being able to see in all directions, and to see the cosmos spinning.

He wrote: “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

This transcendental experience is open to each one of us. It only requires that we spend time contemplating the meaning and significance of our lives. Prayer, meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices can accelerate our ability to access this level of awareness.

*Read our other collections of articles on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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How To Reduce Pores & Have A Cleaner Face.

Why do pores get enlarged? Besides genetic factors like oily skin, there are lifestyle factors to consider such as sun exposure, age and heat. If you experience large pores in just one area of the face or even across the entire face, you may be interested in the following tips to reduce pores and enjoy a cleaner looking and feeling face.

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Enlarged pores allow dirt, dust, and oil to get trapped inside and create problems.

 

What kind of issues appears when pores get clogged? It may cause a range of symptoms from pimples to acne to blackheads.

 

Why do pores get enlarged? Besides genetic factors like oily skin, there are lifestyle factors to consider such as sun exposure, age and heat. If you experience large pores in just one area of the face or even across the entire face, you may be interested in the following tips to reduce pores and enjoy a cleaner looking and feeling face.

 

Don’t allow oil to accumulate on your face

 

Pores can get larger and clogged due to oil accumulations. Our skin produces special oil that keeps it moisturized and protected, but if we allow oil build-ups on our skin, it may end up clogging the pores. So make sure to clean your face properly and remove excess oil. Clay masks are great for this particular job; just don’t use them on a daily basis as they may dry up your skin.

 

Clean your skin in depth the right way

It is very tempting to try and remove those pesky blackheads with your nails, but you should stay away from such habits as they can damage your skin.  You can really injure yourself and break the skin if you try to squeeze a blackhead out, so it’s best to utilize better methods. Instead, try blackhead removal masks that use charcoal to bind toxins and clear out pores.

 

Try Retinoid and Glycolic Acid Products

 

Retinoid refers to vitamins that are used in special skin care products. They usually come in the form of creams and lotions and they have the purpose of shrinking pores and keeping skin tight and toned. This type of product is recommended for people with oily skin, in the majority of cases, helping them shrink down pores and minimize the chances of acne outbursts to occur.

 

Additionally, you may want to try cleansers or products that contain glycolic acid. This particular acid is known for diminishing the surface of pores and preventing dirt and oil from getting trapped on the inside. At the same time, glycolic acid stimulates the production of collagen, which is required for the youthful and plump appearance of the skin.

 

Use adequate UV protection products on your face

 

Sun exposure is one of the main factors that lead to enlarged pores. Using high UV protection on your face is the best way to make sure that the sun’s rays will not affect your pores. Thus, opting for products with a high level of protection, like SPF 30, will keep your pores looking nice and tight even during a sunny day. Not to mention that this UV protection will prevent the premature aging of your skin, caused by frequent exposure to the sun.

 

With these simple strategies in place, your face should start feeling better in no time. The gist is: USe special ingredients to keep your face clean and then protect it throughout the day. In other words: Take care of your face the way you would a good friend.

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4 Cool Historical Facts About Yoga.

Yoga’s history is multifaceted, beautiful, and even a brief knowledge can enhance your yoga experience as well as your favorite pair of yoga pants. So before you head out to your next yoga class, check out the 5 coolest facts about yoga history.

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The business of yoga is booming. Since the 1990s, yoga has become a multi-million business, and a wide variety of companies and individuals have even patented certain yoga styles and sequences. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t see some aspect of yoga advertising a product, whether its a mobile phone or clothing. Yet, in spite of the immense popularity of yoga, its fascinating and surprising history often gets overlooked or oversimplified. Yoga’s history is multifaceted, beautiful, and even a brief knowledge can enhance your yoga experience as well as your favorite pair of yoga pants. So before you head out to your next yoga class, check out the 5 coolest facts about yoga history.

 

 

1)  The Word “Yoga” Has a Fascinating Etymology

 

Yoga. This little word may sound unassuming but it is bound up in complex history and multifaceted meanings.  Its meaning reaches back thousands of years to a Sanskrit word (yuj) that either translates to “union” or “to hitch up” and is, interestingly, related to the word “jugular.” The English term and practice entered English culture  around 1820, with the British exploration of India. So what, exactly, is being yoked? According to history, the term refers to the yoking of a conscious subject with a Supreme Spirit in order to reach an ecstacy condition.

 

 

2) The Mother of Yoga

While the history of women and yoga is murky and debatable, the “mother of yoga” in the West is widely considered to Indra Devi (1899-2002). She is considered the mother of Western yoga because she  was the first woman “allowed” to study with Krishnamacharya (the “father of modern yoga”) in 1937. Once Krishnamacharya accepted his only female student, he encouraged her to spread his teachings. Being married to an diplomat, Devi was in a prime position to do just that. Eventually, she became the first yoga teacher in Los Angeles and her clients included, among many others, Greta Garbo. Sine the pioneering efforts of Devi, many other yogini have helped bring yoga to over 36.7 million practitioners in the United States. Devis would also likely be proud that currently 72% of women U.S. practitioners are women.

 

 

3) Ralph Waldo Emerson Told Henry Thoreau about Yoga

While Henry David Thoreau holds many titles, including abolitionist, naturalist, and beloved American philosopher, being a “yogi” probably surprises most people. In fact, Thoreau discovered yoga while visiting his friend and fellow American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau saw lying on Emerson’s desk a very interesting book titled Manusmriti, which was a book of Hindu law. Thoreau was hooked.

 

Thoreau says of the book that “I cannot read a single word of the Hindoos [sic] without being elevated.” He was particularly attracted to the the “solitude and the meditative life in general” and began practicing yoga while living near Walden Pond. The area–and no doubt practicing yoga– inspired Thoreau to write his now classic and famous literature.

 

 

4) The First Book Ever Written is about yoga.

 

What topic could ever inspire the first book created on earth? Of course, it would be yoga. The oldest known text in the world, The Rig Veda contains thousands of hymns and Sanskrit mantras that were used to invoke courage, peace, prosperity, health, and wisdom. This ancient book sets the foundations of yoga and provides both a spiritual and philosophical foundation for the development and spread of yoga.  The first of the Vedas, this ancient text dates back to at least 1500 B.C.

 

 

Conclusion

The history of yoga is as fascinating as it is mysterious. It is beautiful, ancient, sometimes murky but always captivating. While many people practice yoga with little (or no) knowledge of its history or how it spread to the Western world, familiarizing yourself with its roots can be extremely rewarding. After all, as yoga practitioners, if we want to be a an upright, strong tree, we first must establish strong roots.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karin holds a master’s degree in English and rhetoric and has been a university writing tutor and writing instructor for many years. She loves researching, reading, and writing. An admitted adrenaline junkie, she married her skydiving instructor and loves to go adventuring with him and their 4 kids.

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Will Yoga Fix My Posture? How to Fix Your Posture with Yoga.

Good posture should keep your body aligned. This starts with squared shoulders, but also includes a straight back, open chest and feet flat on the ground. No muscle should be twisted or have extra pressure placed on it. Generally speaking, good posture feels good. Let’s lean into the top medical reasons why yoga can improve your posture.

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Quick poll: are you reading this article hunched over? It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone. These days, we’re all guilty of “computer slouch” or “text neck” when reading online. But bad posture isn’t just unattractive – it can lead to aches, cramps and pains, especially in your lower back and shoulders.

 

If you’re looking for a way to ditch the droop, you should consider signing up for yoga. Yoga has a wealth of evidence-based health benefits, among them improved posture. Your chiropractor will be overjoyed.

 

 

 

What’s good posture anyway?

 

Good posture should keep your body aligned. This starts with squared shoulders, but also includes a straight back, open chest and feet flat on the ground. No muscle should be twisted or have extra pressure placed on it. Generally speaking, good posture feels good.

 

Let’s lean into the top medical reasons why yoga can improve your posture.

 

 

  1. Boosted awareness

Yoga uses a holistic mind-body approach towards exercise. Besides stressing the importance of relaxation and breathing, yoga also teaches body awareness through “poses.” With each pose, a typical yoga instructor will ask the group to focus on various physical aspects, including position, function and movement. Studies show that yoga-trained groups have better awareness of their bodies than non-trained groups. Yoga can even help students maximize body function, on par with therapies such as the Alexander technique.

 

This boosted sense of perception goes hand-in-hand with improved posture. The more you’re aware of your posture, the more likely you’ll adjust it during the day.

 

 

  1. Focus on alignment

Yoga poses also emphasize alignment correction of hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. This sense of proper structural alignment is great for improving posture. As poses are adjusted for optimal positioning, students get in the habit of ideal alignment and are able to hold poses correctly and for longer amounts of time.

 

This directly corresponds to improved posture over time. Even outside the yoga studio, students retain the habit of proper alignment and are likely to correct their slouch at the office or at home. You can even follow these tips to correct and cultivate body positioning.

 

 

  1. Core strengthening

Yoga is also linked to building core strength. Studies suggest that yoga enhances student’s core stability and core muscle function. These muscle groups are directly involved in controlling the lumbar spine, which is essential for achieving good posture. By boosting core strength, students will receive greater back support and may even see relief from lower back pain. With core muscles engaged and strengthened, your posture is sure to shine.

 

 

  1. Enhanced upper body and trunk

Studies also point to yoga as a big enhancer of upper body and trunk strength. In particular, trunk strength is related to posture control. By boosting these postural muscles, students train themselves for greater endurance and resistance.

 

Trunk strength is also key for balance, as seen in a recent study about falls in elderly people. When elderly people performed trunk exercises, they saw greater stability in their lumbar spine and better posture control.

 

 

  1. Maximum flexibility

Yoga also promotes greater flexibility in those who practice it. Flexibility is key in posture control because it aids in balance and motion range. This is good news for your posture, since flexibility can reduce muscle stiffness and tension. Moreover, by training full motion range, yoga can help strengthen your postural muscles and prevent back injury.

 

 

Yoga poses for good posture

 

 

Now that you know the benefits, let’s look at some good yoga poses for improving your posture.  

 

 

  1. Backbends

Yoga poses that incorporate backbends, including locust, cobra and sphinx poses, are great for strengthening postural muscles. They also enhance alignment by keeping the shoulders, head and back in the right positions. In addition, they promote flexibility in important postural regions.

 

How to do cobra pose: Lie down on your stomach with your hands square with your shoulders. Now, engage your core to lift up the arch of your back by pressing down on your hands. Ideally, keep your arms straight and your gaze up.

 

 

  1. Mountain pose

Mountain pose is a simple but effective standing pose to focus on alignment and be aware of your positioning. It’s also good training for balance and stability.

 

How to do mountain pose: The idea with mountain pose is to find the most neutral position while standing. Your feet should be squared with your hips and your weight balanced (not leaning forward or back).

 

 

  1. Upward/downward dog

Both upward and downward dog poses are excellent for posture for different reasons. While downward dog focuses on abdominal muscles and your core, upward dog also conditions the muscle group along the spine. This muscle strengthening is perfect for improved alignment, core strength and upper body boosting.

 

How to do downward dog: Starting on your hands and knees, lift back your pelvis so that you make an upside-down “v” shape with your body. Extend your spine and be sure to align your body.

 

 

  1. Chair pose

Chair pose also works the muscle group along the spine, as well as your hip and buttock muscles. Thus, this pose is great to increase core and trunk strength, as well as balance.

 

How to do chair pose: Once in a standing position, raise your hands and bend your knees into a sitting position. Your feet and knees should stay together.

 

 

  1. Planks

Finally, planks are great for core and upper body strengthening, including abdominal muscles and the muscle group along the spine. It’s also key for alignment, as the body must be squared for maximum results.

 

How to do planks: Get into a push up position, but keep your arms straight, your back flat and your eyes down. Engage your core as you hold this position.

 

 

 

Other posture boosts

 

 

As you can see, yoga is a great option for fixing your posture. If you’re looking for other posture boosts, you might consider contacting a chiropractor. According to a chiropractic doctor in Anchorage, one-on-one sessions can help you adjust your posture, as well as restore position, enhance flexibility and reduce pain. With a professional, you can create holistic care for your posture that includes both yoga and chiropractic, just like this doctor did.

 

Overall, we hope yoga and other posture strategies help you ditch the droop in your posture!

 

 

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

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Renee Descartes’ Contribution to Yoga.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: “I think, therefore I am.” Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy.

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Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: I think, therefore I am.”

 

Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy, which is rooted in Eastern philosophy, in particular he veers in the direction of Advaita Vedanta, a philosophy most notably expressed in the 20th century by Ramana Maharshi.

 

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) invigorated the teachings of the Indian teacher Sharkaracharya (8th Century) who reinvigorated the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. These teachings find their parallel in Idealism, which asserts the primacy of the consciousness of the observer as the basis of reality. This is closely linked to Subjectivism, which says that our individual mental activity is the only thing that is absolutely certain.

 

 

How Descartes Intersects with Yoga

 

Let us imagine that Descartes travels forward in time, from his time, which he would admit to being a quite legitimate possibility, and winds up in southern India in 1936 at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. We travel back in time to witness the meeting. The two men begin to discuss the ultimate nature of existence and quickly realize that they share an analogy and teaching, which offers insight into the nature of knowledge and the intellect of human beings.

 

The analogy they have in common is that of an individual being asleep and dreaming and yet not knowing they are asleep and dreaming.  Another way of stating the key element of this example is that we cannot distinguish between waking and dreaming because both states are created by our minds and our minds create our individual reality. Unless we discriminate carefully we tend to belief everything that our senses and thoughts convey to us.

 

Descartes uses this example to instruct us that we cannot trust our senses in our quest for ultimate knowledge because the senses do not always perceive even common truths. For example: the fact that we are actually asleep dreaming, whereas we think we are being chased by tigers through a forest. Descartes asserts that if we cannot trust our senses in one case we should never trust them in our quest for ultimate truth.

 

Ramana Maharshi uses the dream analogy to illustrate that the mind creates our reality and since this reality is always shifting: dreamscapes changing as well as waking scapes changing, we must look elsewhere to find the changeless reality. He asserts that only that which does not change is real. Some refute this saying that although the dreamscape is constantly shifting not so with the waking state. Observe carefully the world around you and you will see constant change. The sky, oceans, society, people, your thoughts and on and on. Nothing stays steady. Dream is short and waking is long but both are in flux. Add to that the fact that your and point of focus and hence personal reality is always shifting.

 

In their discussion the two men would hopefully agree that whereas Ramana says he is helping people to find the changeless and Descartes is helping them to find pure knowledge, they are both essentially talking about the same thing.

 

In the quest for truth Descartes doubts what his senses convey to him. Ramana looks at all that is generated by the mind and says, “Neti, neti, not this, not this,” as he searches for that which is unchanging. They both advocate eliminating false knowledge in the quest for true knowledge.

 

Given this shared starting point and dream reality, do Descartes and Ramana point us in the same direction from there?

 

Ramana says that the next step is to feel and realize that amidst all the change between dream and waking there is one thing that is constant: the sense of self. The awareness of the “I” that is having the experience; regardless whether it is a dream or waking reality there is always me at the heart of it. Ramana says to sink into that sense of self and therein you will connect with ultimate reality, the reality of being which transcends the mental fabric of mind. Ramana suggests that as thoughts and emotions arise we observe them and ask ourselves, “To whom has this thought arisen?”  The answer is, “To me.” One can then ask, “Who am I?” That is the inquiry that leads to the substratum of reality.

 

Descartes does not codify the process as succinctly as Ramana, who had a 200 + years of human evolution to draw upon.  Admittedly the concept of human evolution does throw some confusion into our time travel meeting as Descartes gets to go forward in time but still has his thought process from 200 years back.

Descartes does though arrive at the same understanding. He comes to the realization that the only certain thing is that he exists and is the thinker and observer of all his thoughts. Thus he says, “I think, therefore I am.” It is the essential awareness of the self at the center of all.

 

Ramana might say, “I observe, therefore I am.”

At the core of both statements is the essential awakening to the awareness that “I am.” This awareness transcends the ego identification wherein our sense of self is linked to thoughts, possessions and achievements: I am a Democrat, I am a good person, I am a rich person, I am the fastest runner, etc. The realizations of Descartes and Ramana point us to find ultimate knowledge and happiness in the profound awareness of our existence. The process requires diligence and plenty of quiet time, but is well worth the effort.

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How to Beat Holiday Stress & Keep That Festive Cheer.

It’s a busy time of year, but the holidays don’t have to be synonymous with stress. Keep that overwhelming feeling at bay by eating right, exercising, learning to say no, and making time for yourself. With the right attitude and a little bit of effort, you can truly experience holiday cheer.

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The holiday season is upon us and that means plenty of time spent with family and friends, way too much food, and memories to last a lifetime. However, the holidays can be chaotic as you try to keep up with gatherings, shopping, cooking, and baking, all while maintaining that festive cheer. To avoid becoming the town Scrooge, here a few ways to keep the stress at bay.

 

Trust Your Gut and Treat It Well

 

When the holidays arrive, it seems that cold and flu season hitches a ride, which means you should be proactive about staying on top of your vitamins and supplements. However, did you know that your overall health actually starts in your gut? Your gut is full of bacteria, and they all play a part, but two in particular (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum) have been shown to help reduce the level of stress hormone in your body as well as your stress reaction. Consider giving yourself a healthy gift this year and add these supplements to the mix.

Another way to take care of your gut microbiome is to be mindful of what you are putting in your body. The saying you are what you eat holds true in that what you put in your mouth can affect your waistline and your mood. Resist the temptation to overindulge on sweet treats and holiday leftovers that you’ll stress over later, resulting in negative effects like acid reflux, cramps, and gas. Opt instead for whole foods, and be sure to eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut to really boost your gut health

 

Don’t Skip Exercise

 

All that running around during the holidays might make you feel like you ran a marathon, but exercise needs to be done in an environment where you can focus on your body and mind. Doing so enables you to get the most benefit out of your exercise, which is the production and release of endorphins. According to Healthline, “They can trigger a positive feeling in the body, boosting mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.” A gym workout is one way to get exercise, but there are other options too such as walking, jogging, biking, or playing sports. Another form of exercise worth a try is yoga. Whether you are a beginner or a yogi, break out the mat and breathe your way through the holiday season. Yoga is the ultimate mindfulness practice, helping you to stay present, uplifted, energized, and worry-free. If you are new to yoga or simply prefer guidance and support at your fingertips, find an online yoga community such as Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

 

 

Learn the Power of No

 

Saying no isn’t something that comes easy, but never is its power more evident than during the holidays. As Hello Giggles puts it, “It’s in our nature to be socially obliging, even at our own expense, and the word “no” feels like confrontation that threatens a potential bond,” leading you to feel overextended, overwhelmed, and stressed. Perhaps you feel as though saying no is rude, but it can be said in a respectful manner. Say something like: “I wish I could, but I can’t take on anything else this week” or “I’d love to, but I’m a little overextended at the moment.” Most importantly, you should never feel guilty for saying no.

 

Make Time to Relax

 

Although this is a busy time of year, there are actually plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation. Get in the spirit by putting on your coziest pajamas and listening to your favorite music or binge watching holiday movies. Find unique activities to try that don’t involve immersing yourself in the chaos that is the mall. Perhaps you could go for a sleigh ride, go caroling, look at holiday lights, or volunteer. You could even make relaxation a new holiday tradition where the family designates an event-free day to rest and recharge in whatever way works for them. If you are crunched for time, take comfort knowing there are ways to relax that take no more than five minutes of your time – just check out this list for proof.

 

It’s a busy time of year, but the holidays don’t have to be synonymous with stress. Keep that overwhelming feeling at bay by eating right, exercising, learning to say no, and making time for yourself. With the right attitude and a little bit of effort, you can truly experience holiday cheer.

       

 

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Yoga Rules for Life: The Theory & Practice of Sexuality in the Context of Yoga.

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human. Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

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Sexuality is one of the cornerstones of our lives. It permeates our biology and hence our thoughts.

 

Our culture and media, which is a reflection of our shared interests, is constantly broadcasting sex and sexuality, oftentimes to influence our behavior.

 

Theory of Sexuality

 

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human.

 

Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

 

Our sexuality is part of our body. Our bodies are part of the continuation of our species and hence procreation and the raising of children are ingrained in our DNA.

 

Yoga is the exploration of our body. We become aware of our bodies through the practice of the physical postures of yoga: asanas. The asanas make our bodies strong and supple allowing for the natural flow of energy.  

 

Body, mind and emotions are intertwined. By opening and strengthening our bodies we allow for the natural and holistic expression of our sexuality.  

 

Sexuality affects our breathing. Yoga involves the awareness of breath and breath regulation. Through breath awareness and control we can become aware of our sexual energy and its intrinsic nature in our being.

 

Practice of Sexuality

 

The essence of yoga is to become aware of our deepest nature. The practice of yoga involves bringing stillness and hence the power of observation to all parts of our being. In the stillness of observation we are able to realize and utilize the vast storehouse of energy that is inside the biology and psyche of each of us.

 

This stillness is achieved through many means: mantras, breathing techniques, visualizations, meditation and exercise.

 

Yoga is traditionally thought of as having eight limbs. The first branch involves moral and ethical observations and one of these is brahmacharya, which is the observation and utilization of our sexual energy. Brahmacharya is often translated as celibacy.

 

In order to explore celibacy we do not need to take a lifelong vow of celibacy or live as a hermit in a cave. Amidst all our activities and various interpersonal relationships we can observe and learn about ourselves by observing the sexual energy in our lives.

 

Try maintaining calmness and observe the sexual energy without physically or mentally reacting to it. In this stillness, however long it lasts you can observe and learn about yourself.

 

There are many forms that sexual energy can take. It is in essence the force of creation. Try channeling your energy into different facets of life:  business, friendships, artistic pursuits etc.

 

All aspects of yoga will help you to do this: the postures, breathing exercises, meditation and study. Brahmacharya is not a moral judgment about sexual energy being good or bad. Rather it is an exploration, a scientific experiment, and a journey into the essence of the most powerful force in creation.

 

The sexual force is depicted in mystical art and literature as a snake that is coiled up at the base of the spine. Often called the kundalini, it is the power of nature, which for most human beings resides in the energy centers below and around the navel. The snake is awake but the energy is used in satisfying our base desires: lust and cravings for power, name, fame and wealth.

 

We also find the snake in the mythology of the Garden of Eden. It is the snake, the sexual force, experienced in the form of pleasure that leads Adam and Eve to a new relationship with the world in which they live. Sex with another changes our lives and destiny.

 

The mystical imagery of enlightenment often depicts this kundalini snake as awakening and winding up the spine until it reaches the brain: the top of the spine, the crown chakra. It is then when the yogi is awakened; when you are awakened!

 

 

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

 

 

 

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Relaxation Techniques While Driving: How to Use Your Commute Time to Amplify Your Zen.

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

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Most people don’t enjoy commuting to and from work. The minutes spent idling on the highway, the last minute gas station stops before your morning meeting, spilling coffee down your shirt!

 

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

 

Be intentional about what you do during your commute to and from work with these easy tips. Here’s how:

Meditate

 

Practicing meditation on your commute is a great way to set a positive tone for the workday ahead. While this can be particularly difficult for those who have overly-anxious minds or those utilizing public transportation to get to work, there are methods to finding mindfulness and inner peace at this critical part of the day.

 

There are many different types of meditation, perfect for different types of people. Start by meditating a few minutes before you leave the house–this can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths or a moment of silence in bed before you get up or as you sip on your morning coffee. Not only will this bring you a sense of calm, but it’s a good way to focus and ensure you drive safer. Meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm are great resources for beginners or those who just want a little more guidance. They have diverse levels of structure, from breathing technique and guided prompts.

 

Once you get in the car (or on the bus or on the train), take a moment to establish your posture. On your commute, pop your earbuds in or sync your phone to your car speakers so you can ride along with the app. Another alternative is to listen to meditative music or use noise-canceling headphones that can create a tranquil bubble and block out the distracting world around you.

 

Listen to Positive Influence Podcasts

 

Most commuters travel at the same time, making that hour or so in the morning extra busy and stressful. Change your mindset so that instead of this chunk of time feeling like a waste, it can be a time to learn and live a healthier life. Listening to a podcast will help your brain focus on relaxing and let the surrounding traffic and people melt away.

 

Holding Space by Dr. Cassidy Freitas is a great podcast that breaks down the scary barrier to mental health and therapy by sharing stories and connections of the human experience. Selfie is another helpful podcast that explores topics like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.

 

You’ll learn something new every time you tune-in during this time of the day which will help you look forward to your commute, instead of despising it. iPhones and Android phones both have built-in apps that let you download and save podcasts to listen to whenever you’d like, making them accessible both in the car or on a train that may lose service.

 

Use the time for Self-care

 

Another great use of this time is to practice self-care. Often times, our own feelings and mental state of being get pushed back behind the needs of work, family, and friends.

 

If you take a bus, train or subway, start by packing a journal that you can write in every day on your commute. The act of writing is mindful and meditative without actually meditating. Ask yourself to write out a list of everything you’re grateful for if you don’t know where to start. You’ll find that the pen takes over as soon as you start to let go and be honest with yourself.

 

Remind yourself what is truly meaningful to you in life and let your brain clear of all the clutter to come in the rest of the day. Other things to note are simply a to-do list, goals for the week, long-term goals, and even just daydreams. Physically releasing onto a piece of paper is therapeutic by having yourself let go of emotions but could also help you gain a new perspective on your life and what you want.

 

If you drive to work, take advantage of the voice-recording app found on iPhones and Androids to record your thoughts and feelings. You can also take advantage of this time to reach out to your loved ones–write them an email or text about how much they mean to you and wish them a good day. If available, call them up while commuting to check in. This is both a productive and relaxing use of commute time.

Do What Brings You Joy

 

Depending on how you commute to work, pack or download a great book for your commute that you can read as a distraction from everything going on around you. Chances are you’ve memorized your commute down to the minute, so you’ll have no trouble getting to work on time (instead of getting lost in the story).

 

Bring along a pen to highlight favorite passages that you can return to later in the day if things become overwhelming.

 

Adult coloring books are also super fun and are known to help reduce anxiety. If you can find a seat on a train, break one of these out and let your stress levels decrease as you color away.

 

And finally, there’s nothing like turning up the sound system on your favorite song. Listening to music can help boost your mood, to create a specific playlist to turn on while commuting. Add songs that are upbeat, loud, and fun for your trip to work, and more mellow, calm songs for your trip home to help you unwind. These songs can be your anthems (instead of an annoying alarm clock) and help you head into work with a positive attitude.

 

And there you have it. The next morning you hop in your car to head to work, try one of these surefire ways to get in the zone for your big day ahead. What are some ways you’ve turned your commute into quality time with yourself?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

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A Guide to the Benefits of Different Types of Meditation. [Infographic]

An infographic featuring 5 different styles of meditation and their benefits, including mindfulness, visualization, focused meditation, movement meditation and spiritual meditation.

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This infographic was created by Culinary Teas

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Lifestyle Changes To Improve Health: Small Changes You Can Make to Boost Your Health Every Day.

Everyone can improve their health in some way, but many of us aren’t sure where to start. Extreme fitness routines and fad diets require us to shift our daily schedule too much, making them difficult to keep up. Instead, in order to reach our goal of sustainable health and wellness, it can be as simple as making small but significant alterations each day that don’t feel like a sacrifice.

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Everyone can improve their health in some way, but many of us aren’t sure where to start. Extreme fitness routines and fad diets require us to shift our daily schedule too much, making them difficult to keep up. Instead, in order to reach our goal of sustainable health and wellness, it can be as simple as making small but significant alterations each day that don’t feel like a sacrifice.

Practice Good Sleep

A full night of quality sleep can help your memory, minimize symptoms of depression, and sharpen your attention. It also reduces inflammation, aids weight loss efforts, and combats daytime fatigue. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, you may benefit from proper sleep hygiene techniques. According to Tuck.com, there are four important ingredients for a good sleep: darkness, quiet, comfort, and a cool temperature. In addition to this, you should go to bed at the same time every night and create a healthy bedtime routine to follow. For example, try meditating or reading a book before bed instead of scrolling through social media on your phone. Also consider not eating for at least two hours before bedtime. This allows food to move further in the digestion process so that our night sleep isn’t spent digesting–it’s spent repairing and building.

Pay Attention to Nutrition Information

The nutrition facts labels on food are there to help us follow a healthy diet, so pay attention to them! By looking at the label, you can compare foods to find those that are lowest in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. Limiting these ingredients in your diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid chronic lifestyle diseases. Nutrition labels also indicate foods that are nutrient-dense, helping you meet your daily nutrient requirements without excessive calorie intake. Look for foods that contain 10-20 percent of your fiber, iron, calcium or essential vitamins when shopping. Additionally, check the ingredients list to avoid additives and preservatives.

 

Once you know what you’re eating, you can begin to assess how different combinations of food make you feel. Current nutritional research is showing that there is not a one-size-fits-all optimal diet for all people. Some people feel better on a high-carb/low-fat diet and others thrive on a high fat/low carb diet. The biggest consensus in nutrition is limiting our intake of refined sugars and flours, and to eat a variety of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc). Beyond that, it’s up to each of us individually to pursue education and test different foods to see what their impact is on our energy levels, mood, and inflammation.

Get Moving Whenever Possible

Too busy to exercise? That’s not an excuse anymore! You can exercise in short bouts of 10-minute intervals throughout the day instead of carving out the time in your schedule for longer workouts. Research suggests that you’ll receive many of the same health benefits as you would from one continuous period of physical activity. As long as you aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, you’ll meet American health guidelines. Go for a brisk walk during a break at work, do a quick bodyweight workout while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, or start your morning with a refreshing yoga routine.

Develop Healthy Habits for Stress Management

Stress is one of the biggest threats to our health these days. It plays with our hormones, overworks our physical body, and creates long-term psychological issues. Managing stress in healthy ways — whether by taking up an exercise regimen or finding hobbies that help lower and manage your anxiety levels — should be a priority in your life. However, avoid turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. Not only are these substances detrimental to our health, but also they can worsen stress and anxiety in the long run. Drinking is particularly risky for women, as research has revealed that women who consume at least one drink per day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Yoga, specifically, is a great way to lower cortisol levels in the body and reduce nervous system activity.

Think More Positively

Negativity can undermine your attempts to improve your health as you face feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, can help you avoid bad habits, form healthy relationships and enjoy greater self-esteem. Positivity involves looking at the world with a greater acceptance of the challenges you experience. Although cliché, it’s about making the best out of every situation, good or bad. Of course, it can be difficult to change deeply-rooted thought patterns. This is where yoga and meditation can be beneficial, helping you focus inwardly on your own self-talk so you can make a more conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

 

As you implement some of these changes in your own life, remember why you’re doing it. Do you want to improve your body image? Wake up with more energy? Boost your productivity at work? These goals can be the motivation you need to fuel every small effort you make toward greater health.

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Addiction Treatments That Work: Hunger Hormones Could Aid Fight Against Addiction

There are many different treatment methods and beliefs of approaching the sensitive topic of addiction, but some experts believe one recent discovery in particular, may hold the key to curbing addiction rates and ensuring a better future for generations to come.

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The Persistent Problem

How many times have you heard about someone who was struggling with alcohol or drug addiction? It’s a very common occurrence as substance abuse continues to harm thousands of users and their loved ones.

Researchers and health advocates have quite the task on their hands as they try to combat the ever-growing problem of addiction. Substance abuse is a serious concern and not something to take lightly. Many lives are lost, and a lot money is spent as a result of prolonged alcohol and drug use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the costs are high. Every year, the combined costs of addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs exceed more than $740 billion. This includes hefty price tags that are related to lost work productivity, health care, and crime that result from substance abuse.

In 2011, tobacco abuse created $168 billion in health care costs alone, while alcohol accounted for $27 billion and prescription opioids cost $26 billion. These numbers keep going up as the opioid epidemic grips our nation. More and more lives are lost to substance abuse, and  new users try alcohol and drugs for the first time.

The CDC keeps track of the substance abuse problem as Americans  are adversely affected by substances that can destroy and devastate their lives. In 2016, over 64,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses alone. This includes both prescriptions and illicit drugs, which are far too easy for people to get their hands on these days.

 

Chronic Health Problems

One of the huge challenges is that prolonged and persistent use of these substances causes chronic health problems. From a poor physical appearance to heart and liver failure, there are countless health risks when it comes to abusing drugs and alcohol. That’s why researchers and medical teams are working  to come up with better ways to treat addiction and save lives.

There are many different treatment methods and beliefs of approaching the sensitive topic of addiction, but some experts believe one recent discovery in particular, may hold the key to curbing addiction rates and ensuring a better future for generations to come.

The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior brought together some of the brightest minds and discovered a connection between the gut hormones, such as Ghrelin and Amylin, involved in obesity and overeating with the hormones that lead to addiction. These researchers believe that this accomplishment could open doors in the world of addiction treatment, as the same hormones that trigger the body’s feelings of hunger and fullness are also at play in drug and alcohol addiction.

 

New Findings

This could be the breakthrough that so many advocates and health officials have been hoping for. Researchers shared their confidence that we could soon see new and improved addiction treatments, as there are several drugs that affect gut hormones with FDA approval or awaiting the go-ahead from government officials.

Scientists have long understood that the human body reacts a certain way to satisfactory feelings like eating or drinking. These new findings point to hard-working hormones that could be causing the addictive feelings.

Gut hormones tell the human brain to regulate dopamine signaling, which affects a person’s decision to seek out pleasurable behavior or rewards, whether that be eating a certain food, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs.

If you think about it, this explains why food and water become less or more appetizing and appealing depending on how hungry or thirsty you are. Drugs use the same dopamine circuits within the brain, so it’s likely that gut hormones could trigger different rewarding effects this way.

In other words, a person’s addiction is made possible by hormones that make them enjoy and ultimately crave the feeling and sensations they experience while under the influence. Dr. Lorenzo Leggio and other members of the NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  say a hunger hormone from the stomach called Ghrelin could increase the reward factor of alcohol very similarly to the way it heightens the reward value of certain foods. In a series of experiments and studies, researchers from the NIAAA/NIDA partnership found that Ghrelin encourages alcohol consumption in people with an addiction to alcohol.

With these recent discoveries, medical professionals can apply the new learnings to their treatment programs. Perhaps by targeting these particular hunger hormones, doctors could reduce the many feelings associated with addiction. There are other gut hormones that may play a role  that tell the brain when someone has eaten enough food and is full.

Multiple animal studies have found that medications that increase the activity of these hormones lower the rewarding feelings of drugs and alcohol. Researchers are excited about the possibility that giving an addicted person certain medications could influence their hormones in a way that reduces addictive tendencies as naturally as possible.

 

Renewed Hope

At the end of the day, advances in medicine, and especially medical research could be game changers in substance abuse treatment. Discoveries and observations can open up new doors for a better addiction treatment .

Much more research will need to be done in the coming years regarding hunger hormones and their role in addiction, but for right now, it’s always in your best interests to stay current on what’s happening in this part of society.

If you, your family, friends or coworkers are struggling to cope with drug or alcohol addiction, know that you are not alone and there are plenty of dedicated resources and researchers out there ready to help you make the best choice. Organizations like A Better Today Recovery Services exist to lend support and guidance to those in need of assistance during the tough journey of addiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenn Mullin is a freelance writer, focusing on social, economic, and political issues. Her inspiration is writing about topics which provoke thought and start conversations surrounding important and controversial issues.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band Live Podcast

Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Tips for Ideal Driving Posture.

7 adjustments for ideal driving posture. Iimplement them on your next ride!

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Infographic courtesy of Norm Reeves West Covina, Honda

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Music & Introverts: Kirtan For People Who Don’t Like Singing In Public.

Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience.

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Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience. After a while, though, Kirtan became one of my favorite parts of the several months I spent at a yoga teacher training center in New Zealand. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s one of the things I miss most from that experience.

 

Kirtan, as I practiced it, is a call-and-response song or chant. We would all sit in a circle with one song leader at the front playing the harmonium. Each time the leader sang a phrase in Sanskrit, the rest of the circle would repeat it back to her, building in volume and tempo each time around.

 

Members of the circle were encouraged to play shakers, drums, tambourines, and any number of other small instruments lying around. Some people got up and danced in the middle of the circle. Some clapped. Some silently swayed back and forth. Kirtan is a deeply personal experience.

 

Similar to how I learned to like yoga, my journey to appreciating Kirtan was slow and steady. It started reluctantly and tentatively, and before I knew it I was looking forward to evening Kirtan almost as much as I looked forward to breakfast the next morning. By the end of my time at the yoga center, Kirtan was one of my favorite parts of the entire program.

 

Introverts & Events

 

Events like Kirtan sessions can be stressful for anyone new to the practice — but perhaps especially for introverts, who are often uncomfortable in social situations that require participation and have the possibility of attracting attention to them. During Kirtan, it’s kind of unavoidable that you make yourself at least a little bit vulnerable. By participating in the singing and beat making, you put yourself out there and make your presence known.

 

For introverts, it can be tempting to recede into the shadows and not sing or participate at all. During my first few Kirtan sessions, which were required for my teacher training certificate, I wished to be anywhere else — “Give me goat yoga,” I thought, “Give me anything else.” I even considered faking illness to get out of it.

 

As an introvert, I had to take a critical look at how introverts experience events like Kirtan to figure out how I could come to love it. What was it that made me so averse to the idea? I found that the turning point came once I had the courage to develop a role for myself. Once I had a role, I had an extra reason to go and found the confidence to have fun with it.

 

Finding a Role

 

My role came in the form of a hand drum. I had taken a few drum lessons years before but didn’t remember much. Luckily, I have always had a pretty good sense of rhythm. So one night at Kirtan, I picked up the hand drum and started banging away. “I’m just going to go for it,” I thought.

 

Apparently it worked, because after that night I became the designated drummer of the group. People asked me to show them how to play, and I wondered why it had taken me so long to pick up the drum in the first place. I think the change was when I decided to focus on myself and my own personal fulfillment rather than what other people were doing or thinking. I never led a song myself, but I went to every session and found great enjoyment in it.

 

The Payoff

 

I ended up loving Kirtan, and even entertained the idea of starting a local group now that I’m back home. Given how yoga affects the brain, it should have been no surprise that something related like Kirtan could leave me feeling energized and invigorated. I was happier when I participated. It was a good lesson for me to learn to not just let life pass by as I sit on the sidelines, even if it means enduring a period of discomfort.

 

Giving Kirtan a chance also made me realize that stress isn’t always bad. Sometimes, a bit of stress is the catalyst you need to elevate yourself to the next level. In my case, I was able to transform myself into a Kirtan-loving hand drummer. You never know how something will impact you until you give it a try.

 

Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

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How To Create a Relaxing Bedroom Sanctuary.

Inviting a sense of serenity to your bedroom will not only fill you with peacefulness, but it will also contribute to your well-being. For instance, according to different studies, clutter can make you feel stressed and even cause lack of sleep. However, if you’re mindful of your bedroom design, you’ll be able to create a soothing sanctuary that will promote wellness and better sleep.

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Inviting a sense of serenity to your bedroom will not only fill you with peacefulness, but it will also contribute to your well-being. For instance, according to different studies, clutter can make you feel stressed and even cause lack of sleep. However, if you’re mindful of your bedroom design, you’ll be able to create a soothing sanctuary that will promote wellness and better sleep.

Get rid of clutter

A cluttered environment will make you feel cramped and claustrophobic in your own retreat, so make sure to create an open, organized bedroom. Decluttering your sanctuary will give it a fresh look, make it seem bigger and fill it with an atmosphere of positivity. You should keep your bedroom design simple, removing unnecessary items and neatly arranging everything from your closet to your nightstands.

 

Key Takeaways:

●       Keep your surfaces clear

●      Remove unnecessary items

●      Organize your closet

 

Clean it thoroughly

Since your bedroom is your personal area for relaxation and regeneration, it should be completely healthy. Thus, you should clean it properly and regularly, tackling all the hidden corners and dusty spots. Make sure to wash your sheets and other fabrics at least once a week. Furthermore, you should pay special attention to your area rugs because they can be home to a high level of toxins and allergens. Finally, when cleaning your bedroom retreat, make sure to use healthy cleaning products or solutions that you’ve made on your own.  You can check the Environmental Working Group’s report on some of the most harmful cleaners that you should avoid.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Wash your sheets once a week

●      Deep clean your rugs

●      Avoid toxic cleaners

 

Improve your air quality

 

The quality of your indoor air can affect your sleep and your general state of mind. Purifying your bedroom from airborne pollutants is an essential step that will help you make your bedroom healthier. Aside from opening your windows regularly, you should introduce an effective air purifier that will cleanse your bedroom from even the tiniest particles. Introducing houseplants can also help you improve your indoor air quality while also creating a soothing natural vibe. Peace lily, Aloe Vera, English Ivy and Boston Fern are just some of the plants that you need in your bedroom.

 

Key Takeaways:

●       Open your windows

●      Add an air purifier

●      Decorate with plants

 

Approach your bedroom design with mindfulness

 

When designing your bedroom, and other parts of your home, you should find different ways to give it a mindful refresh. Every design element that you use can have a major effect on your mood and health, so you should be careful with your decorations and other design choices. After embracing a mindful approach towards decorating, you’ll be able to create a true Zen-inspired sanctuary, perfect for relaxation, rejuvenation and meditation. This entails carefully planning your bedroom design, including your furniture arrangement, materials and colours that you use and even seemingly insignificant details such as scents and shapes. For instance, according to Feng Shui, each shape represents a certain element (square=earth). Using a single shape excessively can create an elemental imbalance, which can affect the general atmosphere in your space. Therefore, you should be mindful of the design elements you use and how you use them.

 

Key Takeaways:

 

●      Plan your furniture arrangement

●      Introduce soothing scents

●      Be mindful of shapes and objects

 

Pay special attention to your bed

 

Not only is your bed the focal point of your room, but it’s also the spot where you go to sleep and wake up every day. Thus, it becomes obvious that your bed is one of the crucial elements that affects your quality of sleep and, thus, your health. Everything from its position to its decorations should be carefully planned. According to the Indian Ayurveda and Chinese Feng Shui, placing your bed so that your head faces the south or the east can improve the flow of energy and ensure better sleep. You should also simplify your bedroom embellishments – a lovely throw cover and a few cushions can be enough to elevate your bedroom décor without disrupting its visual balance.
Furthermore, your mattress is another element of your bed that you should pay special attention to. The quality of your mattress will undoubtedly affect your sleep quality and your back health. If it doesn’t provide you with appropriate back support, you’ll wake up every morning feeling tired. You should also have enough space to find the right sleeping position. Therefore, if you believe that your current mattress isn’t right for you, you should consider choosing a new breathable king mattress that you can customise depending on your needs and sleep habits. This way, you’ll make sure that you get quality sleep every night.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Place your bed strategically

●      Keep your bed decorations simple

●      Invest in a quality mattress

Remove technology

 

A cosy, healthy and tranquil bedroom sanctuary shouldn’t be burdened with technology. By eliminating electronic devices, you’ll create a true ambience of peacefulness. Furthermore, you won’t be exposed to harmful blue light that can interfere with your sleep cycle. So, bid technology goodbye and welcome tranquillity instead.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Remove electronic devices, especially phones

●      Don’t use technology at least an hour before sleep

 

Soften your lighting

 

Appropriate bedroom lighting is another factor to keep in mind when designing a cosy sanctuary. It should be adjustable, enabling you to change the mood depending on the time of day or your needs. In the evening, it should be subtle and slightly dimmed so that you can fall asleep more easily. During the day, it should have plenty of natural light that will open and brighten up your bedroom. Finally, you should also consider introducing blackout curtains that will help you block off street lights that may be disrupting your sleep during the night.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Install dimmers

●      Maximize natural light

●      Introduce blackout curtains

 

Be careful with colors

 

A soft palette of muted tones or neutral shades is the most suitable choice for a bedroom. Brighter and more vivid shades can be overwhelming and energising, which isn’t appropriate for a bedroom environment. Subtle blues, greens, soft greys and beiges are the best option because they will have a calming effect, helping you relax and unwind. By introducing them to your bedroom, you’ll create a true atmosphere of tranquillity and serenity. Of course, you can add a pop of colour for accent details and decorations, giving your bedroom your unique personal touch.

Key Takeaways:

●      Avoid vivid color

●      Use soothing tones, such as blue and green

 

Transforming your bedroom into a soothing, healthy retreat is one of the simplest and most effective ways to promote your health and well-being through design.

 

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Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in San Diego.

If you want to combine spiritual centering with unrestrained giddiness then I recommend Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas.

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If you want to combine spiritual centering with unrestrained giddiness then I recommend Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas.  Once you get off the freeway, the serene and winding country roads begin to set the mood.  You’ll pass ranches, sprawling haciendas, and lots of eucalyptus trees. Once you arrive at the farm you are greeted and checked in by the charming Elizabeth Sugarman, proprietress.   A pebbled walkway leads you through orchards to the animal pen where goats of all sizes and breeds romp, eat and prance about (I so love the prancing!). A goat named Cowboy actually jumped up, in a single bound, atop a four-foot high fence to extend a bleating hello.  

After a bit of animal socializing we walked over to the yoga “studio,” a re-purposed tennis court with umbrellas for shade, and bales of hay around the perimeter.  We set up our mats and were instructed to put all belongings that we didn’t want eaten, out of the way. The instructor was introduced and we seated ourselves in Sukhasana (seated cross-legged pose), closed our eyes and began the journey.  And then the goats came in. We were forewarned that these critters are curious and friendly, and not to hold back the laughter. There were about ten goats of various sizes and two very young ones that just joined the herd yesterday. The babies were passed around during the class for cuddling.  We were given instruction on how to hold them – one arm securing the chest and the other around the bum and keep them level. I didn’t want to let mine go.

Once when I was supine preparing for cobra, I felt four little cloven hooves on my back.  It was Minty, an adorable black and white youngster with a garland of flowers around her neck.  Fake of course, or they would have been eaten. You can’t help but giggle. In downward facing dog, I came face-to-face with upward facing Dagmar.  There were buckets of grass around the studio for them to munch on but Gretel preferred a mat and Cowboy preferred a delicious knot on the back of someone’s yoga top.  The goats’ favorite pose was pigeon. It gave them a real opportunity hop aboard. There were 4 or 5 young girls who acted as goat wranglers and clean-up squad when nature called.

 

Periodically, sliced carrots were scattered around and the sound of stampeding hooves was hilarious.  In addition to the goats there were also a couple of llamas in the mix – Bon Bon and Tootsie. The farm also had horses, two sweet dogs, guinea pigs, and chickens.  

At the end of class as we relaxed in Shavasana, lavender scented wash towels were distributed, and I saw a red-tailed hawk flying overhead.  The instructor was a rock star for conducting a very novel yoga experience with a million distractions.

 

Namaste – eh- eh- eh – eh.

 

WRITTEN BY PATRICIA STALEY: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

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5 Health Tips for Seniors to Stay Golden in Your Golden Years.

Aging into your golden years is a beautiful part of life. It means retiring from your career, no longer raising children and living your best life. But getting older also means having to take better care of your health, both physical and mental. As you age into your senior years, improve your quality of life by taking control of your health. Here are 5 tips to get you started!

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Aging into your golden years is a beautiful part of life. It means retiring from your career, no longer raising children and living your best life. But getting older also means having to take better care of your health, both physical and mental. As you age into your senior years, improve your quality of life by taking control of your health. Here are 5 tips to get you started!

 

Prioritize your health.

Make regular doctor visits for tests and evaluations, take preventative actions and never ignore symptoms. The “wait and see if it goes away” approach might have worked in your younger years, but it won’t work in your senior years. Waiting could lead to diseases spreading or getting worse. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating well and exercising are the most controllable things you can do to prevent health issues from developing. Don’t forget about your mental health and the invisible illnesses that lurk inside. Just because a disease doesn’t cause physical damage, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Add a mental health professional to your list of doctors to see regularly.

 

Focus on eating clean.

Older people tend to have more heart and blood sugar problems, weaker bones, and higher risk for disease, so it’s important to eat heart-healthy food with balanced nutrition. Your body is more easily affected by fried foods, red meat, sugar and alcohol than before. Your aging body needs more nutrients to be healthy. This is the time to consume more vegetables and water, but don’t rob yourself of cheat meals. Living your best life should involve occasional indulgences.

 

Find an exercise that works for you.

Whether you’ve always been a fitness buff or just getting started, regular exercise is important for your brain and body. If you’re not an athlete or if you have joint and mobility problems, you can stick to low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming and walking. Many senior centers offer fun group classes like Zumba and line dancing so that seniors can enjoy these workouts without having to keep up with their younger counterparts.

 

Adopt a companion.

As we get older, we see less of people. Our friends might not be as mobile, and our family might be busy with their own lives. If you’re living alone, a companion animal can be beneficial for easing loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. For those who enjoy caring for others, a dog can fill the void that children once filled. You get to care for someone while having constant companionship, and your dog gets to have a best friend to love. If you qualify for an emotional support dog, you can travel with your pet and live in homes that usually don’t allow dogs.

 

YOLO

Do things that you love or have always wanted to try. Wear a bikini on the beach, take a trip to that bucket list location, pick up a new hobby, go to a Rolling Stones concert, become an actor or move closer to the beach. You’ve dedicated most of your life to other people, so now you should dedicate your life to yourself. Don’t let anything stop you from living out your dreams.

 

Before you enter the aging stage, have a retirement plan that will support your financial and living situations throughout the remainder of your life. Set up a healthy living arrangement, whether it’s a grown child’s home, assisted living or your own home. Get a good medical insurance plan through private insurance or Medicare. Have a substantial retirement fund from savings, investments, or passive income. Most importantly, take care of your mind and body for an optimal quality of life.

 

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Mindful Interiors: How to Give Your Home a Mindfulness Refresh.

Not only will a mindful remodel help you design a more tranquil home that celebrates moderation, simplicity and nature, but it will also help you appreciate your space more and create a connection with your surroundings.

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Mindful living teaches you to appreciate the beauty of each moment and embrace serenity in your life. If you are setting out on a path of mindfulness, you will likely transform all areas of your life into natural peace and beauty.

This approach can include transforming your home into a mindfulness-inspired retreat that will fill you with peacefulness. Not only will a mindful remodel help you design a more tranquil home that celebrates moderation, simplicity and nature, but it will also help you appreciate your space more and create a connection with your surroundings.

Embrace Serene Colors

The power of colors is certainly not underestimated in a mindful home design. On the contrary, if you want to create a Zen-like vibe in your home and design a space that will help you be more mindful of the world around you, you need to introduce carefully picked shades. In a mindful home, the colors of nature, such as soft greens, clean blues, rich browns and other neutral tones, are an emblem of serenity. They will help you create a simple, understated base for other design elements while also introducing visual balance and peacefulness. Muted tones, chalky finishes and faded tones can all work together perfectly in designing a mindfulness-inspired sanctuary. However, a pop of dark, moody tones like deep purple or dark charcoal can encourage meditation and mindfulness, so don’t hesitate to use them.

Go Zen Where You Can, Especially the Bathroom

Designing a soothing bathroom retreat is another great way to invite mindfulness to your life. Taking some time to indulge yourself and appreciate the moment you’ve taken for yourself will fill you with tranquillity. Creating a bathroom with a Zen vibe will provide you with a calming retreat where you can do that. You should opt for a minimalist design, install subtle lighting and soothing colours. Natural accessories and calming fragrances are also welcome in a Zen-inspired bathroom.  

Optimize Your Bed

 

Your bed is an area for relaxation and your personal sanctuary where you can unwind, recharge your batteries and get ready for a new day. Thus, it’s important that you have a bed that inspires relaxation and comfort. You can go with a low ensemble bed that will be in the spirit of a Zen-inspired style. It’s important that your bed provides you with a feeling of comfort and ensure that you get quality sleep. You can go with Wabi-sabi inspired sheets that have a slightly wrinkled look. This will give your bed a cosy, lived-in look and help you create a calming ambience. Finally, you should take the time to make your bed every morning instead of just rushing out. Not only will this leave you with a beautiful bed, but it will also give you a moment before you go on with your daily duties.

Blissful light

Becoming more mindful will inspire you to embrace the flow of energy in your home. Letting sunlight permeate your home will not only make it seem brighter and more open, but it will also energise your space and have a positive impact on your mood. Thus, you should use every opportunity to welcome natural light to your home, open up your windows and feel the warm rays of sunlight. However, you should also be mindful of your artificial lighting and avoid fluorescent lights that may cause depression and anxiety. Instead, you should go with subtle LEDs, adjustable dimmers and intimate candles to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere in your home.

 

Go Natural

Adopting a mindful lifestyle will teach you to be aware of your environment and establish a deeper connection with nature. Therefore, you should adopt such an approach when designing your home and implement natural elements. Greenery will help you open up your space, make it more enjoyable and relaxing and elevate your home décor. Natural materials, on the other hand, will give your home an organic touch and fill it with a soothing natural vibe. Wood, stone, clay, marble and cork will help you design a nature-inspired retreat with timeless appeal. You can use them for authentic features, flooring, furniture pieces and decorative details, letting their flair and texture come into focus.

Stay Organized

Designing a mindful home means paying attention to what items you use and how you use them. Instead of just letting clutter pile up, you should remove it and use hand-picked items in your home. Introducing items with a specific purpose will help you appreciate them more. Furthermore, clutter can have a negative impact on your mood, making you feel overwhelmed and cramped in your own home. You should take time to declutter your space and create an open and airy atmosphere. However, you need to prevent clutter from building up, so make sure to keep your surfaces clear and your items neatly arranged.

Your home should be a place of tranquillity and serenity where you’ll be able to appreciate every moment that passes by. Thus, you should embrace these simple elements and bring mindfulness into your home.

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

 

 

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How To Like Yoga: Stories From A Reluctant Yogi.

The benefits of yoga, from reducing stress to increasing compassion, greatly outweighed any discomfort I felt about plunging myself into the yoga world head first. You don’t need special clothes or an Aum tattoo or any certain level of flexibility to do yoga.

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I had always liked the idea of being a yogi but could never quite picture myself fitting into the peppy, Lululemon-clad hordes of Zen-seekers that I saw in perfect headstands as I passed by the windows of the many yoga studios in my neighborhood.

Everyone looked so flexible and intimidating, so I’d keep walking and do a few stretches in the morning on my own, wondering what it would be like to join in on yoga as a group experience.

So when I decided to spend a year working and traveling in New Zealand, I surprised myself by signing up for a month-long yoga teacher training course on the North Island. I told myself that this was my year to learn about the things I was interested in but had never tried — and that included yoga and meditation.

 

Why Do It?

 

In addition to the many benefits of exploring a new culture, I looked forward to specifically dedicating time to pursue yoga and meditation with no excuses — no more saying, “I’ll do it later” or “maybe next month.” I knew about how stress affects our health, impacting circulation, anxiety, and weight, and knew I could benefit from some stress-relieving routines like a regular yoga practice.

 

I didn’t trust that I had the personal resolve or discipline to make myself develop a yoga practice on my own, so I hoped that the month-long intensive would make the habit stick so I would have an easier time continuing it when I returned home.

 

What Was Yoga Teacher Training Like?

 

I was immediately drawn to the incense wafting between rooms, the bells of mindfulness tolling throughout the day, the brightly colored yoga mats splayed out on any and every surface big enough, and even the obtrusive sound of the harmonium that could be heard from across the grounds.

 

However, as an introvert who generally doesn’t like an audience, I was pretty apprehensive about the actual yoga teacher training thing because you’re training to be a yoga teacher, which, you know, inherently involves an audience.

 

But it turns out that group yoga is not as intimidating as I thought. Don’t get me wrong — I definitely considered escaping many, many times. The night before I had to lead my first yoga class in front of my peers, my partner had to talk me out of booking a taxi to get me out of there immediately.

 

And yet — everyone was very supportive along the way and often experiencing the same level of nervousness that I was. Everyone was more focused on what they were doing rather than looking at the person on the mat next to them. It seems obvious now, but this was such a road block for me to getting into yoga in the first place that it felt like quite a revelation once I figured it out.

 

Between learning yogic theory, practicing asanas, performing ancient yogic cleansing techniques, singing kirtan, guiding meditations, and cooking traditional Indian meals, there wasn’t much time to ask myself, “what the heck am I doing here?”

 

My Takeaways

 

As yoga, meditation, and kirtan became parts of my everyday existence, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to give these things a real try.

 

At first, when I learned we’d be doing kirtan every night, I experienced an unparalleled dread. Singing? In a group? No thanks, I’d rather poke my eyeballs with a hot stick. It’s funny how things work out, because kirtan ended up being my favorite part of the entire month — a place where I could let go and discover an unknown talent for drumming. Who knew?

 

Several years removed from this experience, I still incorporate things I learned during my yoga intensive month into my life, like when I’m feeling anxious at work or tight and sluggish from too much sitting. A quick and basic series of poses or a few minutes of regulated breathing exercises do wonders for my well-being, and I’ve been able to share these techniques with friends and family.

 

The benefits of yoga, from reducing stress to increasing compassion, greatly outweighed any discomfort I felt about plunging myself into the yoga world head first. You don’t need special clothes or an Aum tattoo or any certain level of flexibility to do yoga. As long as you do it for you and focus on your inner transformation instead of your outward appearance, you won’t be a reluctant yogi for long.

 

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Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

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3 Yoga Poses to Improve Posture.

How’s your posture? Do you spend hours a day sitting down at a desk hunched over a computer or paperwork? Most of us, at least for part of our day, do just that.

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How’s your posture? Do you spend hours a day sitting down at a desk hunched over a computer or paperwork? Most of us, at least for part of our day, do just that.

Tension creeps into our muscles, tightness and knots fill our necks, shoulders and backs. Sure the idea of 90-minute yoga classes seems lovely, but for those of us time-poor, stressed out individuals, it’s a luxury we are rarely afforded.

 

The Yoga Solution for Improved Posture

 

Do a few minutes, every day or every second day, or once a week, if that’s all you have time for. Here are three, simple poses for every body type, age, and skill level to do every evening. They can be done in just a few minutes and I guarantee you’ll feel more relaxed, have less tension in your body and sleep more soundly than before. What have you got to lose?

 

Ragdoll Pose:

This one is amazing for relieving tension in the lower back from all that slumping in your chair. It also gives a nice stretch and lengthen to you hamstrings and neck muscles. It’s as easy as can be.

Simply stand with your feet hip width apart and fold your body forwards. Be sure to bend the knees as much as you need to, let the belly hang loose (not a hard ask, am I right?) and let the head and neck relax. Hang out here for a few, deep breaths. You can grab opposite elbows if you like, or simply let the hands rest wherever is comfortable.

Optional extras for complete release of tension:

Open and close your mouth a little to relieve tension in the jaw (you would be surprised how much builds up with there and no one can see how ridiculous it might look). Then shake your head in a ´yes and no´ fashion, which releases into the neck. A final addition that feels amazing is to interlace your hands behind your back and let them fall forward. This releases deep into the chest and shoulders. Feeling better already? I told you so!

 

Pigeon Pose:

This little beauty gets right into those tight hips, giving a beautiful stretch to the glutes and the hip muscles. And trust me, these need tending to.

With one leg straight behind the body (knee on the ground) have the other leg bent at the knee, running along the ground at a 45° angle. If you want you can remain sitting upright (better if you are more stiff) otherwise you can fold your body over your front leg and relax. Depending on flexibility, it might feel nice to rest have a pillow handy and to rest your head on a pillow. Breathe deeply and enjoy. Swap to the other leg after a few minutes. If hips are especially tight, pop a pillow or rolled up blanket under your hip so it’s not floating in the air and has some support.

 

Spinal twist:

This pose is heaven on tight shoulders, as well as providing upper and lower back release. It really gets into the nooks and crannies of the spine and is pure bliss after a stressful day!

Lie on your back and draw one knee into your chest, then let that knee fall over your body the opposite side and rest on the floor. Take arms out to the side, or rest opposite arm on the bent knee to a little extra oomph! Relax, breathe and enjoy! Do the opposite side when ready.

These simple poses will have you in a blissful state in no time, or at the very least, significantly more relaxed that before

This sequence works perfectly just before going to sleep, but could also be done at lunch times, as soon as you arrive home from work, or any other time you have five minutes to spare. **It could also be drawn out to a longer session and you could stay in each pose for a few minutes, making sure to come out of them slowly and consciously, and finish with a glorious shavasana to make for a longer yoga session.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Written by Stephanie Johnson, yoga teacher and blogger. For more information on the author, check out her blog at https://stephaniejohnsonwriting.wordpress.com/ or connect with her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/stephj_inchile/?hl=en

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Zen Bathroom Design Tips: Add a Little More Tranquility to Your Life.

A proper Zen bathroom will make you want to linger there a bit longer, just like you do in a spa.

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Who can say that they don’t need a bit more peace and tranquility in their life? We live in a hectic world and lead rather hectic lives, and we usually manage to relax and enjoy some peace in the comfort of our homes. We often see bathrooms as small sanctuaries and like to relax there, but if the space is cluttered, it’s very difficult to do so. This is why we’re offering you easy tips to turn your bathroom into a Zen-inspired sanctuary.

New colors

One of the best ways to feel peace is to turn to nature and find inspiration there, so we advise you use natural color schemes. The best choices are the colors that allow you to recreate the feeling of open spaces: green, sand, black, taupe and grey are among the most popular hues. They are very neutral and allow you to add a touch of unexpected, such as bright orange or ruby red. The key is to add these hues in small doses: towels, soap dispensers and cabinet handles. Earth tones will invoke peace and allow you to relax, but a bit of your favorite bright shade will make the space more inviting and familiar.

Light up

Light is very important in the bathroom – it allows you to see better when you’re applying makeup or fixing your hair, but it can also help you relax. Plenty of natural light is always a good idea. Skylights and windows are more than welcome, but you will also want to protect your privacy and have shades and curtains there too. Dimming lights are also great because they allow you to keep regular lights and dim them when you want to take a long, relaxing bubble bath. Having some candles close by is also nice, as these add a romantic touch. 

Spa luxury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key ‘ingredient’ to creating the Zen-like atmosphere in a bathroom is to be able to create a sense of luxury and serenity. A proper Zen bathroom will make you want to linger there a bit longer, just like you do in a spa. We might not all be able to afford a Jacuzzi, but marvelous stone bathtubs will give you a similar feeling and won’t cost a fortune. Baths are better for relaxation because you can enjoy long, luxurious soaks, and you can light a scented candle and add a few drops of essential oils or Dead Sea bathing salts.

 

The smell of peace

There’s no point in doing a bathroom remodel-makeover if it smells unpleasant – you will not want to spend a minute there longer than it’s absolutely necessary. Aromatherapy will help you complete your bathroom transformation into a Zen sanctuary. You should try using some of the known invigorating scents, such as lemon, mint and eucalyptus, or something soothing and relaxing such as lavender, sandalwood, or perhaps thyme. Jasmine and rose water will make you feel like you’re in an exotic garden. Candles are the simplest solution, but you could also choose potpourri or a small oil diffuser.

Embrace minimalism

 

It’s easy to notice that minimalism and Zen somehow come hand in hand – stress is often caused (or amplified) by clutter, and by embracing minimalism you’re opening up the space and ‘inviting peace’ in. Your toiletries can be kept away in a cabinet and neatly organized so you can always easily find what you’re looking for, and all those old toothbrushes, empty shampoo bottles, and used expired makeup products should be thrown away. Make it a rule to keep your phone and laptop out of the bathroom too – you might think that you can reply to that email while you’re in there, but we’re sure it can wait for a few more minutes.

People hesitate to do a bathroom remodel because they fear it’s going to cost too much and take a lot of their time. When you make a good plan and organize your time, however, you will discover that you can easily create a Zen bathroom without a huge investment of time and money. A spacious, clean and neat space will feel like a real sanctuary where you will be able to find inner peace with ease.

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

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An Overview of Divine Feminine Goddess Archetypes.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  

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Everyone has a mother: all embodied beings are born, and to be born means to have a mother.  To have a human mother means to have a relationship to a person who brought us forth out of her body, who cared for us when we were at our most helpless and vulnerable. We were utterly helpless as infants: if she had not protected us, we would not be here.  For most of us, she smiled at our open gaze and spoke sweet words to us. She wrapped us up when we were cold, and comforted us when we were hurt or frightened. Above all, she fed us and kept us warm. The experiences that we had at the beginnings of our lives have created our deepest memories and associations. These are the bedrock of our conscious and unconscious lives.  Mother is the womb, the home, the beginning. She is the nest: we learn, we live with each other, we share our lives and livelihoods because we began our lives with a mother.

We all have a deep psychological imprint of mother.  Our biological makeup is designed to interact with a mother, even while still in the womb.  Much of this is instinct, built into the structure of our bodies and nervous systems. In fact, this primary relationship is the foundation of individual consciousness.  Mother is more than a biological entity, a creature that gives birth to us; she may not even be female. Males may function as mothers in certain circumstances, as may other family members or relatives. In nature, beings are born in all sorts of ways, and not necessarily through a biological female. A certain kind of male frog, for example, receives the eggs from the female frog and then incubates the eggs and tadpoles until the baby frogs are born from the male’s side pouch. For humans, Mother is an archetype: the relationship with a mother is part of our innate psychic makeup.  We find someone on whom we can “project” the image and function of the Mother, whether or not that person happens to be a biological mother.  In this sense, we create our mothers as much as our mothers create us. We smile or cry or demand care of our mothers, and they respond as best they can. When the process of mothering goes as it should, she remains at the center of our psyche.  She is the great being who has brought us physically and psychologically into this world.

Never mind for a moment that in our time and culture, the category of “mother” does not carry the universal meanings that it once may have had.  Real mothers can have problems with parenting. Many people have issues or problems with their parents, or have misgivings about the mothering role that they themselves are expected to play. When our relationship with a mother is damaged or incomplete, we may feel damaged or incomplete as human beings. We may develop trust issues or suffer emotional traumas or a stunted ability to love others. This said, shortcomings in real mothering are not necessarily relevant to a meditation on mothering itself.  Mothers give birth to each one of us. We have all been protected, nurtured, and taught by mothers. All multicellular beings have been born from mothers. This is true even for the many organisms that are born from eggs. Even so-called “bad” mothers took care of us when we were at our most vulnerable and most helpless. On some preconscious level, we all remember this.

No beings come from nothing.  Life produces life, and life nurtures life.  Life survives only by the grace and protection of mothers. This truth is timeless and sacred – and it may not be confined to just this life.  Motherhood may be an aspect of having multiple lives. If you can accept the idea that there are more lives to live than just this one, then we have all been mothers.  We have all given birth to other beings. The Buddhists like to say that there have been so many incarnations of every being in every conceivable situation and circumstance, that in the countless eons of time, every one of us has been a mother to every other one of us. And every one of us has had every other one of us as a mother.  All of us are related to everyone else through being mothers.  We are all linked in a most intimate and interdependent way. This is a sacred and beautiful concept. If it seems preposterous or silly, just accept it as a poetic conceit.  Meditate on it. Contemplate it.

 

Mother as Devi, the Goddess

 

On a cosmic or universal level, we can relate to Mother as a sacred being — as Devi.  Devi, a term from the Hindu religion and philosophy means goddess. It is one of the terms or metaphors used when discussing the divine.  Perhaps most importantly, Devi is the archetype of the Mother as a primordial symbol in all cultures and at all times. It signifies the feminine aspect of divinity, god, or consciousness. What exactly is connoted by the term “feminine” depends upon what religion, philosophy or spiritual disciple you are referring to.  It has a renewed resonance in new age circles, invoking Celtic mystery goddesses, Hindu deities like Kali or Durga, ancient Mediterranean goddesses like Astarte, Aphrodite and Hecate, earth mothers, and gentle healing feminine archetypes of all descriptions.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  She is Devi or Durga to the Hindus, the Universal Mother out of which all other manifestations of the goddess originate. Devi is associated with death and transformation as much as she is associated with birth and protection. In the Hindu pantheon, she is part of a trinity of divine forces that include Shiva as the destroyer, Vishnu as the preserver, and Devi, who embodies the creative or manifesting force in the universe. The Hindu concept of divinity differs from the Western notion of gods and goddesses associated with specific and limited powers and spheres of influence.

Depending upon the philosophy or religious practice or region or scripture being considered, Devi can be many goddesses. As Parvati, she is the consort of Shiva in his guise as the great Lord of the Universe.  Or she can be Kali, the process of destruction and dissolution as much as creation and preservation. The male deities Vishnu, Brahman and Shiva are metaphysical absolutes.  Their feminine counterparts are experienced as Shakti, the creative expression of the cosmic absolute.  Shiva can be thought of as the unmanifest potential of the universe, the energy substratum out of which time, space, and causality come into being: picture the image of Shiva Nataraja in His cosmic dance of creation and destruction.  Parvati can be thought of as the force of Prakriti, the manifested universe of name and form.  Think of her as she is portrayed in a Chola period bronze, infinitely full and voluptuous. She is nature: the world of the senses. Shiva and Parvati are two aspects of the same reality, in the way the West has devised the metaphor of matter and energy as two expressions of the same underlying reality.  

 

Devi as the Divine Feminine

 

Devi is beauty, as well as the creative expression of intelligence or consciousness.  The divine Mother can appear as Saraswati: it is this energy that brings poetry, music and philosophy into human life.  What would humanity be without language, sagas and songs, architecture, and mythologies?  Saraswati represents our ability to express and represent our symbolic and metaphysical universe.  As such, she makes the forms of consciousness possible: language, meaning, and the awareness of ourselves as individual ego-minds encased in the body.   As the goddess Lakshmi, she manifests as our livelihoods — as abundance, grace, beauty and charm.  She makes life possible — and bearable. The consort of Vishu the preserver, she represents material and spiritual wealth and well-being.  Finally, Devi manifests as Kali, the source, origin, duration, destruction, and negation of the world. Kali is related to Kala, or time. Ultimately, she is time, space and causation.  As such, she is the ultimate reality: another way of experiencing the Lord Shiva.

Devi is a metaphysical reality. But as a human being, I relate better to an abstract philosophical principle when it is more accessible and concrete.  In all spiritual traditions, God is made manifest in some way that is accessible to human emotion and human experience. The Divine is represented in such figures as Christ, Goddess, Buddha, Zeus, or Mother Mary.  The divine is experienced through Yahweh, Allah, Mohammed, Moses, or some other entity that possesses a name and a presence.  Personally, I like to experience the spiritual reality as a feminine presence, as Devi, especially in two forms: as Mother Kali and as Tara, the liberator and protector. Tara is the easier to approach and to understand. She is the rescuer, the savior goddess, the one who represents the boon of fearlessness.  She destroys all dangers, especially those psychic dangers of fear, doubt, and ignorance. She demands only our attention and our devotion. She is love and forgiveness personified — the ideal mother, lover and friend.

Kali is the goddess of spiritual transformation.  She is the death of the limited, ego self and the liberation beyond the illusions of time, materiality, and the human form.  She takes many forms and has many, many names. Similar forms of the goddess appear in the Buddhist pantheon as Nairatmya, or “egoless woman,” and Vajrayogini, the tantric deity of transformation and annihilation. Kali is represented as standing on top of her consort Shiva, who represents a transcendental absolute reality. She holds a sword of non-dual wisdom that cuts through illusion and falsity.  She also holds the severed head of a male demon that has had the temerity to challenge her. The head represents arrogance, ignorance and pride, as do the other 108 heads that she wears on a necklace around her head. Kali is fierce but compassionate. She is terrifying to those of us who are holding on to our illusions and resisting the realities of time, transfiguration, and our own apotheosis. She is the savior goddess to those who surrender to divine revelation.  Unlike Tara, she is not an easy goddess to accept or to love. But both are to be venerated as two aspects of the same goddess, the same divine reality.

 

Her Worship and Sadhana

 

How does one approach the Mother as divine feminine?  In one form, she is experienced in meditation as the simple presence of consciousness or awareness.  In tantric or Kundalini practice, she is experienced as internal energy or bliss. She exists in images and statues to be worshiped and meditated upon.  Finally, she exists in liturgies and prayers to the Goddess. Chanting, japa, or repeating mantras in ritualistic worship are not things that appeal to everyone.  It can be argued — and has been — that ritual worship or the worship of deities is not essential to spiritual practice. It is also argued that specific liturgies lead to idolatry and to the weaknesses and potential divisiveness of religious practice and spiritual dogmas.  It is often argued that it is better to be free of religious symbolism and ritual practice, and simply to meditate on the heart chakra or compassion or some other uplifting concept. These are all good points — and yet, the presence of the divine in one’s life is as powerful and potent an expression of our humanity as is our reason and our human love. Why would we want to deny its personification as gods and goddesses?  The meaning of Yahweh is “I AM”: ultimately, this is all that God really is.  The gods and goddesses manifest as archetypes simply because it is in our nature as human beings to manifest them.  In the words of one of my liturgies, the gods and goddesses do not exist except as a means to allow us to experience the true nature of reality.  Reality in this sense means to experience the inner and outer presence of THE PRESENCE, as my own guru once put it.

There are as many ways to experience the divine Mother as there are devotees to experience her. One way is to allow the manifestation of the divine Mother in ordinary life.  This involves a little fantasy and role playing, but don’t our jobs, marriages, trips to the supermarket and to the dentist — our ordinary life in general – call for some role playing anyway?  Our lives are devoted to fantasy and make-believe: the fact that we believe in the roles and dramas we enact is all the more reason to stop, look, and listen. All of these thoughts and opinions and make-believe are also forms of the divine manifestation. Devi is the manifestation, out of the emptiness of pure potential, of our lives and us.  As we all know, there is nothing really out there. Or, if you prefer, you can say that it is all hydrogen and specks of dust. Yet to us, our political parties, neighborhood parties, retirement parties and every other party happen day after day, throughout our lives. Where does this intense activity come from? What or who manifests it? Why not call it the Divine Mother?  She is the cosmic womb from which everything that exists, exists. In the Hindu metaphor, she is Shaki: the power or energy of the divine that appears as everyone and everything in the universe of names and forms. The Divine Mother is our lives and in many ways, she is us.

 

Shakti; Her divine manifestation

 

As devotees of Shakti, the divine Mother, we should find her sacred presence everywhere.  I remember seeing Mother Kali dancing in a shopping mall. My spouse and I were emerging from a department store in a huge shopping mall in Maryland, when I spotted Mother Kali. She was a wonderfully exotic looking black woman with waist-length hair wearing middle-eastern clothing, heavily jeweled and formidable looking. She was standing near an improvised stage by the food court, looking through a box for additional CDs. Two of her brightly dressed apprentices were slowly dancing arm in arm to entertain the crowds of holiday shoppers with a choreographed routine.  I said to my wife, “Look over there — its Ma Kali”. She thought it might be the two dancing apprentices, but they were far from the real thing, like ordinary devotees next to a master. Kali herself danced next, and the change was electrifying: a middle-aged black woman, lithe, quick, sharp, and delicate as a cat as she moved carefully and liquidly around the stage. Her dance genuinely summoned the goddess. As I watched from the upper balcony, she shot a quick glance around at the assembled shoppers. I was inwardly reciting a hymn to Kali: “It will be auspicious if she looks at me.” Her glance shot by, but I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me. Isn’t that just like all incarnations of divinity? We can never quite tell if they are really looking at us or not.

On that day, I was preoccupied with an important decision that I was soon to make — a decision that would change my life dramatically. As it usually happens, I was thinking that this was my decision to make. But, as I watched the black woman dancing, a story came into my head from a biography of Vivekananda. Vivekananda was the world-famous disciple of Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna is a great saint of modern India and a fervent devotee of Mother Kali.  Vivekananda, his greatest student, travelled extensively throughout Europe and America at the beginning of the last century, preaching brilliantly about Vedanta and Indian philosophy. His work made it possible for later teachers like my guru Gururaj to be understood in the west. Gururaj would sometimes talk about Vivekananda, and even once claimed to be an embodiment or reincarnation of Vivekananda. In the story as I remembered it, Vivekananda is concerned about restoring a ruined shrine to Kali, whom many Hindus worship as the mother of the universe. No sooner does he think this, however, then the voice of the Mother comes to him and admonishes that it is She herself that restores or destroys her own temples, not any work of the ego or the human will. God alone does everything. We can do nothing by ourselves. I myself heard a similar inward voice that day, warning me that I can decide nothing. I can do nothing. It is an illusion that I am the agent of my life. God alone acts.

 

Spiritual Surrender and Devotion to the Divine

 

This brings up the devotional attitude of surrender to the divine feminine. When we have a decision to make, some of us like to invoke Tara, Durga, Kali, Mother Mary, or whatever form of the divine Mother we are personally devoted to. If we have been doing intense spiritual practice, we can even visualize God or Devi as our guru and ask him or her what to do. The divine Mother or God or our guru may even tell us — but we are really just talking to ourselves. We may hope for some voice of higher wisdom, and we may get one, but in one way or another, it’s really just our inner selves that we are talking to.  This inner voice, or inner guru as it is sometimes called, is a tricky thing. If we are lucky, and sufficiently wise, it is our divine natures we are invoking and not just another form of the bewitching and misleading ego consciousness: this latter entity is merely the voice of our fears, doubts and illusions. It is easy to be fooled.

So, who or what is it that we invoke, when we invoke the divine Mother?  I like to think of her as everything that forms the entire fabric of our existence, both inner and outer experience.  This is the whole manifest universe of thought, word, deed, objects, and selfhood — everything. Because this world seems to exist, and furthermore, seems to exist as something that we can conceive of and even participate in, I think of it as feminine: alluring, terrible, seductive, all-pervasive, loving, powerful, merciful, forgiving, remorseless, beautiful, and empty. Empty, because ultimately, it is nothing but the ceaseless play of consciousness, without form, substance, or duration. But, this is getting too philosophical and conceptual. Mother is best experienced directly, not through concepts and ideas.  The divine Mother is not philosophy or an idea about experience, but experience itself. This is why you can see the entire manifest universe in the form of a bewitching black woman dancing in the vast shopping mall of the universe. The whole mystery of manifestation exists in each and every moment of the divine dance. Mother and I exist just for each other: God and her devotee.

While I rarely “pray” to the divine in a conventional sense, I always remember: “God’s will be done.” Like most people, I am involved in the world: I live far from some monastic ideal of renunciation and detachment. I do my spiritual practices every day, without fail, as an expression of my devotion and love.  I probably meditate and contemplate the divine reality more than most people, but I do so without expectations. The Mother is what she is — and I accept that. But it is also true that the divine Mother gives her devotees what they secretly want in their heart of hearts, with all the joys and sorrows that come with an involvement and identification with the manifest world of space and form.  Whatever we may think we want or fear, we will be all consumed by our life. It is our own nature that propels us into the world, into action and into endless activity. The divine manifests itself in the world through each one of us. That manifestation IS God, IS the Goddess. And that Goddess is no other than myself: not myself in my ego dream of separation and division, but in her true guise as the Mother itself.  Though all of my existence transpires within my own awareness, that consciousness is itself divine. It IS the Mother.

My hope — or my prayer, if you like — is that in surrendering my own illusion of individual self, I will be enacting God’s will: my submission to the Will of the embodied universe. Gururaj, after a lifetime spent actively doing all the things in the world that he was born to do — teaching, fathering, meditating, being the guru to many of his devotees — wrote a mysterious poem of resignation shortly before his death.

 

The world goes on

through its twists and turns,

I go on in its meandering ways

but I am still!

Who wants to watch

the waves of life’s ocean…. floundering

Gururaj Ananda Yogi, May 1988

 

I get shivers when I read that poem. Vivekananda too, after a very active life of teaching and traveling, came to realize a higher kind of resignation to the will of the Mother. He had done it all, and he had his fill of it.

Vivekananda (in a letter to a disciple):

“The whole world is a mere child’s play — preaching, teaching, and all included. ‘Know him to be the sannyasin who neither hates nor desires.’ And what is there to be desired in this little mud-puddle of a world with its ever-recurring misery, disease, and death?… This rest — eternal, peaceful rest — I am catching a glimpse of now in this beautiful spot. ‘Having once known that the Atman alone, and nothing else, exists, desiring what, or for whose desire, shall you suffer misery about the body?’ I feel as if I had my share of experience in what they call ‘work’. I am finished. I am longing now to get out…May Mother gather me soon to Herself never to come back any more. These works and doing good etc. are just a little exercise to cleanse the mind, I have enough of it. This world will be world ever and always. What we are, so we see it. Who works? Whose work? There is no world. It is God Himself. In delusion we call world–neither I nor Thou nor you, it is all He the Lord, all one.”

(Quoted in The Life of Swami Vivekananda, Vol II, pg. 119)

This might sound a little extreme, or even faintly negative. It doesn’t sound especially positive or “life-affirming.” But who are we to affirm life — or anything else, for that matter? Life affirms itself. The manifest universe is doing a very good job of manifestation, whether we like it or not, and we get to be included in it. After all, we ARE it. That last line of Gururaj deserves some careful meditation. Is he saying that he does or does not enjoy watching those waves of the world? Is he floundering, or is it the world that flounders? Who knows? Who cares? It’s all Mother’s doing. She’ll tell us when to come in from play.

 

The Divine Mother as Ananda; Bliss

 

Who, finally, is Mother?  Beyond divinities and symbolism, Mother consists of this mysterious union of existence, consciousness, and ineffable joy that the Advaita philosophy calls Sat Chit Ananda.  The Tibetan Buddhists call it the Dharmakaya in its formless aspect, the Sambhogakaya in its power to be aware, and the Nirmanakaya in its manifest or expressed form.  The Catholics have their Trinity, and the Jews simply state, “I AM.” This is Consciousness as Being. Awareness arises co-dependent with Shiva, the primordial Being. Without awareness, there is no activity of Consciousness.  This is symbolized by the Sleep of Brahman. The activity of awareness is experience-in-the-world, which is another way of saying that it is Mother’s manifestation as Shaki, the primordial activity and expression of consciousness.

The divine union of Shiva and Shakti is the union of manifestation and the un-manifest source.  Out of this divine union arise the self and the object of awareness.  This is embodiment, or what the tantric practitioners call mandala.  This I what I experience as Kali or the divine Mother: the universal expression of wisdom, energy, ecstasy, and knowledge.  Kali is the timeless awareness out of which Time arises. She is Formless and Un-manifest: out of her arise both the inner world of thought and perception and the outer world of objects and attributes.  She is always still and is always in motion. She is causality and Karma. She is without personality, and She is the supreme personality — the only personality, the universal “I.” Not surprisingly, she enjoys herself.  She is the enjoyer: the knowing aspect of consciousness and the experience that experiences itself. She is never without action. She is Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. She is the Supreme Self, the only self, and my true self — the “me” which manifests as personality in the world.  

Her great devotee is the 19th century Indian saint Ramakrishna,

“My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is akhanda satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same. The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali….”

Reality with attributes, saguna brahman, has been unanimously declared by the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras to be Mahakali, the primordial energy of awareness. Her Energy is like the rays of the sun. The original sun is attributeless Reality, nirguna brahman, boundless awareness alone. Proceed to the Original through its Radiance. Awaken to non-dual Reality through Mother Kali. She holds the key. —

Sri Ramakrishna in “Great Swan”, by Lex Hixon, p.184

So, who is Kali?  Who can say what the Mother truly is?  We can only lose ourselves in astonishment at the beauty and majesty of this world, which she creates.  Beyond thought, beyond the mind, she is the being that looks into our eyes when we look up into hers. She is also that which looks out of our own eyes. With hope, fear and expectations, we love her, and she, through her divine grace, returns this love.  

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, JEFFRY CARR: Jeffrey Carr has been active with meditation and spiritual practice for over forty years.  He is a Full Teacher in the American Meditation Society (americanmeditationsociety.org), a Senior Teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia (www.tibetanbuddhist.org), and has completed a two year program in the Clearlight Meditation Teacher Training program of the Clearlight Meditation Institute (www.clearlightmeditation.org).  Carr grew up in San Diego and has recently returned after a career as an art professor at a number of colleges and universities and then as the Dean of an artschool in Philadelphia.  Some of his artwork can be seen here: www.jeffreycarr.work.  He has been a disciple of Gururaj Ananda Yogi for over 35 years, and is a long-term student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist and Dzogchen traditions. Carr’s interests and experience include Zen meditation, the teachings of his root guru, Gururaj Ananda Yogi, Non-dual Advaita Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen, Non-dual Saiva Tantra and emerging contemporary traditions of non-dual spirituality.

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Sujantra McKeever: An Interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online Founder.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society.

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This piece is written by Molly Flores, a student at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego. 

In a dimly lit foyer, sunlight cascades over potted olive trees and illuminates trails of incense, seemingly swaying to its own Asana.  In the background, gentle flute music resonates in my ears and fills me with a sense of elation. The walls surrounding me are adorned with vivid paintings and inspirational sayings such as “Yoga is union” and the tables display crystals and sweet smelling herbs.  In this space, I am grounded and filled with euphoria. I close my eyes to embody the feeling entirely. I am drawn back earthside as a gentle hand rests on my shoulder but a voice does not disrupt the silence.

I have come to Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio and have already succumb to it’s grace.   Sujantra McKeever, the founder and owner, stands before me with the presence of a redwood tree that has seen many seasons pass before it;  insightful and strong. His salt and pepper hair flows around his face freely and his infectious smile seems to suggest that he holds dear the secrets of the universe.  He wears loose earth-toned clothing and worn oxford loafers; the combination suggests he is a spiritual man with business to conduct. He gestures me to follow him and I am surprised to discover a den tucked away, hidden behind folding French walls in the back of the studio.  

Unlike the foyer, the den is cramped, filled with books on meditation and pictures of a small Indian man with the same infectious smile: Sri Chinmoy, a world famous inspirational leader who mentored Sujantra for 27 years.  The desk across from me is used as an altar; miniature figurines of Buddha and Hindu goddesses are carefully displayed. The desk also showcases many mementos such a group pictures and event flyers, representing a sense of family: a community of people that Sujantra’s passion has united.

As I prepare myself, Sujantra is already seated ready to explain his juourney.  His aura alludes inner-peace and this the very reason I chose to interview this man regarding his journey to self-enlightenment. As I shuffle through my notes, a look of overwhelment is obviously splayed across my face.  “Where do I begin?”, I giggle nervously. This man before me has seen so much…Without a cue, the silence is interrupted by the soft tone of a gong and just like that, his story unfolds before us.

“I was raised a Roman-Catholic, even as a boy, I had a good feeling for going to church…and I really liked that feeling of that shift between the day to day world and the sacred world.”  

Sujantra McKeever, was born in San Francisco in 1962.  As a boy, he attended cataclysm classes which evolved to a Prayer and Contemplative Meditation course while attending Jesuit High School.  During these classes, Sujantra and his peers, were guided by the priest into spiritual visualizations. “On one of those days, I had a very profound experience about my sense of self and sunk to a really deep place within myself- this was very eye opening. I had never felt that dimension before…”

Now awakened to his passion, Sujantra began to nourish his mind, body and spirit; combining physical exercise with the spiritual practice of yoga and meditation.  Running and basketball were essential to his physical routine as they allowed him to practice breath control, referred to as Pranayama. The peaceful postures (Asanas) of yoga nourished his longing for reflection and a higher sense of self.  

“What I was really motivated to deepen was my ability to meditate.”  Sujantra felt a longing to expand his knowledge and practice of meditation.  Unfortunately, the priest who had ignited the passion within Sujantra originally, was limited in his expertise and was unable to satiate Sujantra’s need for more knowledge on the practice.  

After about a year and a half of searching for a teacher, Sujantra met Sri Chinmoy here in San Diego in 1980. He was teaching a class and the feeling Sujantra left with was similar to the bliss he had experienced as a boy.  He then attended a free concert held by Sri Chinmoy in Phoenix, Arizona. A connection was made and a lifetime of mentor ship was established. Sri  Chinmoy became Sujantra’s spiritual teacher and remained so for the duration of his life, until his passing in 2007.

“I shared with Sri Chinmoy that I wanted to create a space that would be a real vehicle to convey love and inspiration for the practice of meditation and yoga and he created the name The Pilgrimage of the Heart.”  This safe space eluding love and spiritual practice started as a new age bookstore in 2006, providing literate on the practices of yoga.  From there a few yoga classes were hosted throughout the week, word then spread and many more yoga classes were being taught, with this the need for more instructors emerged.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society. His classes include, Beginning/Gentle Yoga, Yoga for children and Hatha levels I and II, as well as guided meditation as well as a musical meditation course. Continently, for those who can’t make it out to the studio, instructional meditation videos are now provided on www.pilgrimageyogaonline.com.

Not only had Sujantra created a platform to bridge the gap of ancient aspects of yoga to a modern group of people through his studios and website; but he has written 5 books and has lectured in more than 25 countries on the practices as well.  “ I find that the hardest job a teacher faces, is connecting with his audience, so what I’ve tried to accomplish with my lectures and writings is making meditation very accessible to people and to demystify yoga in that sense.” His writings include: Learn to Meditate, Paths Are Many Truth Is One: A Journey to the Essence of Spirituality and Religion, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Lives: The Mandukya Upanished, 7 Secrets to Super-Health, and Strategy for Success.  

As I glance down at my notes, realizing I haven’t prepared anymore questions, I am ready to improvise.  I look up, about to impose a question about his own personal practice and finding the time amidst his busy schedule; only to find that Sujantra has taken it upon himself to find the time right then.  Very clearly deep within his practice, I smile, realizing this was the most appropriate cue for the conclusion of our interview. I head for the door, feeling extremely inspired as I turn to exit I hear “I hope our practices emerge one day, Molly.  Be well.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Molly Flores is originally from New York and has been living in San Diego for the past 10 years. She has a busy life as a mom of two, and is deeply interested in expanding her practice and understanding of yoga and meditation. This piece originated as an interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online studio founder, Sujantra McKeever. Molly is a student is Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights and North Park in San Diego. 

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Ep 68 – Sound is God

Ep 68 – Sound is God. Special guest, Sita Rose offers a musical journey into bliss.

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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 68 – Sound is God. Special guest, Sita Rose offers a musical journey into bliss.

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Spiritual and Other (Mis)Adventures On and Off the Grid.

There’s a saying, and the title of a wonderful book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are.” My own bad habits and lack of spiritual discipline had followed me from the city to the remote mountain cabin, and back into life in a new city. To change the way I felt about my life, I didn’t actually need a radical change in scenery, but a commitment to live the way I wanted to live every day.

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Everyone has an escape fantasy—perhaps it’s a life of endless surfing in Bali, or running a vineyard in the south of France. Six years ago, I left my job as a yoga teacher to lobbyists and lawyers in Washington, D.C. in pursuit of my own escape fantasy: modern homesteading in the Colorado Rockies. I had probably read too many books about a simple life in harmony with animals and nature—so many, in fact, that I thought that’s what it was really like: part Little House on the Prairie, part Walden, part Charlottes’ Web. I had never so much as grown a tomato on the balcony, but believed in a life more homemade, more ideals-driven, and more spiritually profound than I thought the city could offer. So, what came next?

Buying 36 acres and a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, one heart-stopping hour’s drive on a backcountry mountain road away from a tiny little town. And dragging my reluctant husband, my two-year old son, and the baby in my belly—due in six months—along for the ride. Of course!

I was idealistic to a fault, to my detriment, to the annoyance and sometimes infuriation of everyone close to me. There was much I rejected about the city: the rampant exploitation of people and the earth to fuel a consumerist model of economic growth, the attachment to stress as a status symbol; the traffic and air pollution. Through hard work and food self-sufficiency, I believed I would finally fulfill my desire to do more good and less harm to this living planet while cultivating the ability to be deeply present that, despite my job as a yoga teacher, was lacking for me and my family in our city life. My meditation practice had only shallow and scattered roots—I had tried so many methods, and had drifted away from the path as much as stayed on it. As a condo-living city dweller, I lacked all connection to dirt, and believed that the natural environment and my spiritual practice were somehow fundamentally linked.

In place of forgettable character-themed birthday parties and high-pressure schools, I wanted my children to hold day-old chicks in their hands and live their whole lives with wild places imprinted in their memories. We would trace the fine pinpoints of constellations instead of the coarse fog of light pollution; our imaginations would be fed by the narratives of animal and plant life unfolding around us, not the manufactured dramas of television. We would know that real food isn’t packaged in plastic because our hands had coaxed nourishment from the ground.

As my husband and I quit our jobs and packed up an entire life’s worth of city accouterments, I convinced my dad to go in on the venture because I knew he longed for fiery orange sunsets backed by a vast, mountain scape on a piece of land he could call home. The 36-acre homestead brimmed in my mind’s eye with wonder and potential. I could build a yoga yurt set against the breathtaking mountain vista and bring students for classes and retreats: a combination sustainable homestead/yoga and spiritual center. Possibilities were endless.

I found that I no longer needed to-do lists; the first year of homesteading goals were etched plainly in my mind: Grow the biggest, best food garden ever. Raise all kinds of animals, humanely, for milk, meat, eggs and wool. Hunt, dress, catch and freeze game and fish. Knead, bake, can, sprout and ferment every manner of food I knew—and more that I didn’t. Fix, patch, sew, darn and knit. Form instantaneous and lifelong bonds with neighboring homesteaders. Transform a family marked by anxiety and convenience-addiction into a resourceful, hardy, multigenerational mountain household. Love every minute of it.

People grow food and raise animals all over the world, I told myself. I was tough and outdoorsy. I had read all about modern homesteading. I had this—no problem. Right?

***

As it turns out, homesteading was nothing—nothing at all—like the glossy magazine photos of pretty women in stitched aprons with broad smiles and a fiddle in one hand, a skillet apple pie in the other. Instead, cold penetrated every fiber and left our cheeks permanently frozen and raw—until the heat came. That brought its own dry form of suffering. Spiders dropped from the many crooks and crevices of our picturesque cabin onto our pillows at night. Big spiders. Food gardening, begun with starry-eyed optimism, soon proved technical, rife with battles between human and small mammal—not at all like my fantasies of communing with a giving earth. The farm animals we tried to keep were threatened by fox, bobcat, snake and bear. I soon felt more—not less—scattered and discombobulated than I had in the city. Presence eluded me, and my yoga and meditation practice languished in the dust of all the chores and worries.

Isolation proved the toughest burden of all.  By seeking a closer bond with my husband, our son, the baby to come, and with my father, I had unwittingly isolated us from everyone else. I had imagined a community of homesteaders on the mountain—though no evidence had existed for them—and when that proved the stuff of fantasy, we were left mainly looking at one another. Ironically, without a wider interpersonal safety net, even those closest family relationships were strained because we needed the village, or city—the social ecosystem that provided inspiration, comic relief and technical support to the many endeavors of life. The 36 acres of untamed mountain beauty and the picturesque little cabin began to feel more like a prison than a vehicle of liberation.

There was also the incident where my husband met me at the door with a gun because he thought I—noisily wresting bags and parcels out of the trunk of our car—was a bear breaking into the garage. And so sooner, rather than later, we pronounced ourselves unfit for the job of homesteading—we fled.

***

I should have been devastated by the loss of a dream. Our financial burdens mounted under the humiliating shadow of having to move ourselves and our son into the upstairs half of my in-laws’ home in Orange County. My husband and I were both unemployed for over a year, our second baby was due imminently, and Orange County—with its tangle of freeways, chain stores, and affluent suburbs as far as the eye can see—was the last place I would have imagined living. Yet there was peace in my heart, at long last, in compromise.

Ideals are just that—to strive for, not to be realized all at once. After giving homesteading my all, and failing pretty spectacularly, I realized that I’d rather be happy than righteous. And for me, happiness is both an inside and an outside job: working on that steady connection to my center through asana and meditation goes hand in hand with finding a community and a place to feel at home. Here, at last, in San Diego, I’ve journeyed further than ever along the path of cultivating both the inner sources of contentment, as well as the community of like-minded yogis and natural-living folks that inspire and support me.

I’ve learned that life is messy and full of wrong turns. The world doesn’t conform to my ideals. I may never wake up and say, this is the culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted. For as long as I could remember, I’d had a sense that finding the right city, state or country, the right property and house, the right way to earn a living, the right community, would signal, now my life is starting for real. But no, I realize, life is here and now, happening under my nose. I couldn’t be truly present with my spiritual practice in Washington, D.C., nor did I find the lasting peace I sought in the country. But that wasn’t the fault of either place. It was my own. And it could be changed.

There’s a saying, and the title of a wonderful book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are.” My own bad habits and lack of spiritual discipline had followed me from the city to the remote mountain cabin, and back into life in a new city. To change the way I felt about my life, I didn’t actually need a radical change in scenery, but a commitment to live the way I wanted to live every day—with wonder and appreciation for my abundant blessings, with deeply rooted presence for myself, my family, and my yoga students. After all these years of talking about the benefits of gratitude and meditation, and of practicing them on and (mostly) off, I finally find myself with the motivation, and the ability, to practice daily.

***

While trying to live my dream, I discovered that I’m not as alternative, nor as tough, as I thought. And that’s actually alright. I’m a person with ideals and contradictions. Accepting life as it is—and myself, as I am—inclusive of all the flaws, while stumbling along half-blind: that’s a more realistic view. When my kids are older, I’d like to give homesteading another try, but in a more incremental way, and in a place that suits me better.

Meanwhile, there’s much I can do in a city like San Diego that I couldn’t do on the mountain: walking my kids to school, and biking to work. Bartering goods and services with those in my community so that we can all have more while buying less. Shopping local. Maybe experimenting with a little urban homestead in my postage-stamp North Park yard—because although I’m done with the full-tilt rural homesteading fantasy for now, I’m not done searching for our good life. We could have a small organic garden and a few hens. Maybe even some bees, and a couple of milking goats (the city of San Diego permits two miniature goats on single-family lots)—when we’re ready. And one day soon, I’m pretty sure we will be.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Danielle Simone Brand (aka Danielle Brand-LeMond) is a mother of two, a die-hard idealist, and a breaker of conventions. An instructor of Flowing Yoga and Prenatal Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart and elsewhere, she has been teaching yoga since 2003, and practicing since 1996. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MA from American University and has worked as a staff writer, an academic editor, and a researcher on issues of international conflict resolution. Having grown up in suburban Hawaii, Danielle had no practical rural skills, nor any reason to believe she could handle a true Colorado winter. All she had was her yearning for a homemade life for her family—and the willingness to write about it. Her memoir manuscript about following that dream is entitled, A Good, Good Life: Misadventures (Almost) Off the Grid.

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Kirtan: A Weekly San Diego Music Event in Normal Heights

If you’ve never been to kirtan before, there’s a few things you should know.

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Every week, Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio hosts a musical meditation practice called Kirtan, which is one of the many branches of yoga.

What is Kirtan?

If you’ve never been to kirtan before, there’s a few things you should know. Unlike many other musical events, the audience becomes a very real part of the overall experience by singing with the accompanying band in a call and response format. The band will sing through the chant and then the audience responds by singing the chant in response—back and forth, over and over again.

By repeating lyrics (which are often times in the traditional language of yoga—Sanskrit), the repetition becomes a mental focal point, and this helps to reduce everyday mind clutter. This often leaves participants feeling peaceful, clear and open-minded—which are all traits of a great meditation experience.

Generally, each chant is centered on some divine aspect, like a traditional god or goddess from the Hindu faith, or a story-line from Hindu mythology. At our San Diego kirtan events, it’s important to us that all participants feel included, regardless of religious or spiritual background. We emphasize that there is no right or wrong meaning to the songs, and that the main goal of the practice is to benefit from singing out loud.

As westerners, we might have perhaps lost sight of the importance of singing, but in India, singing is considered a very primal spiritual experience, centered around vibrations. When we sing, we create vibrations within our physical body which move outward into the Universal whole. And when you think about it, singing—vibrating—feels good. Our bodies have this natural, musical engine within us; despite our inhibitions, we are built for singing.

 

Join us every Thursday night at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights for San Diego’s only weekly kirtan event.

What makes kirtan a unique music event?

What is so very special about Kirtan is that everyone in attendance is invited to sing! The audience becomes a communal chorus and very quickly each individual begins to recognize that it’s OK to sing. This can only happen when individuals feel safe from criticism and judgment, and we always do our best to support each participants’ expression of kirtan.

Many of us were raised to believe that the only people who should sing are those with special qualities, and that those who aren’t musically talented should refrain from singing for fear of scorn and ridicule. In a way, our western culture discourages singing.

However, numerous studies point out that choral singing is good for our overall physical, psychological and emotional health.

Being able to sing in public is a rare opportunity. Unlike signing up for a singing group (like a choir or a class), all you have to do with kirtan is show up. After playing weekly kirtans for over 8 years, I’ve had some wonderful experiences with newcomers who tell me that their first experience was so profound, that they love to sing but there’s no place to do so, that they will be back. I’ve watched our regulars participate almost every week for the eight years we have offered the event. It’s very easy to quickly become drawn to the practice. You recognize that your voice is a gift and has meaning.

 

Kirtan FAQ

Question: Is kirtan part of a religion?

Answer: Kirtan originates from the Hindu faith system (and other eastern traditions; Jain, Sikh, Islam, Buddhism…). Hinduism ascribes God and Goddess status to almost everything, but this shouldn’t deter you from practicing! God and Goddess status simply indicates a respect for different aspects of creation, and doesn’t represent or conflict with how God is conceived of in Western traditions. Kirtan is spiritual for spiritual people, religious for religious people, and non-denominational for those who aren’t inclined.

 

Question: What are your songs based on?

Answer: We have chants in our practice that originate from all five major faith systems (Hindu, Hebrew, Buddhist, Islam and Christianity) and also spiritual songs that mesh well with the overall concept of spiritual Self-realization. Yes, Kirtan is a spiritual, devotional practice but should not be confused that it stands for one religion or another.

 

Question: Do participants need to be “spiritual” in order to participate?

Answer: We encourage everyone to consider the divine thoughts of the spiritual traditions in whatever manner they are comfortable with. We are NOT trying to ‘convert’ anyone’s beliefs into something else. We are about celebrating cultural, spiritual diversity and understanding and about being a vehicle for each of our own individual, divine realization.

 

Kirtan Band

Kirtan songs don’t have a set meaning. Rather, participants are encouraged to explore the meaning of each song based on what makes sense to you.

How do I attend?

We invite you to attend kirtan on Thursday evenings at 8:30-9:30 p.m. All you have to do is show up; there is no registration. You can sit in a chair or on the floor as it suits you. We have songbooks to make it very easy for you to follow along and little bells for you to ring and keep rhythm (but only if you want to). The practice is family-friendly and we encourage you to bring friends.

We ask that you contribute $5.00 (minimum) to help offset the cost of live musicians. The event is free for our yoga studio members.

Happy Kirtan!

 

TOM WARNER: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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The United Nations & Human Rights: A Roadmap For Solving Humanity’s Challenges.

What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?

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What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?
These are challenging questions that lie at the heart of most of the seemingly complex issues that face individuals, nations and inhabitants on planet earth. Yoga can help us navigate these challenging issues.
Yoga philosophy is rooted in the concepts of truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy. At the heart of these teachings is a core respect for the tremendous value of each human life.
I help to organize a yearly yoga festival that celebrates the ideals of the United Nations.
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These ideals are rooted in yoga. The United Nations honors June 21st of every year as the International Day of Yoga.
An example of yoga taking form in our modern world can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. This declaration was created to complement the United Nations Charter by creating a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual on the planet.
The Commission on Human Rights, which was tasked with the creation of the UDHR, was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the drafting committee.
The entire document is readily available online. The UDHR provides fundamental ideas and principles that, if valued and honored, would profoundly help individuals and leaders make decisive and clear choices regarding issues we currently face.

Health Care as a Human Right 

Let’s take the issue of health care.
Our current system is not meeting the simple and straightforward goal stated in Article 25 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”
Let’s apply this universal human right to those living in the United States by asking a few questions about the standard of living and healthcare in the United States. Does our nation value the goal of everyone having the right to adequate health and well-being? Does our government put energy and resources towards these goals? Is our national intelligence applied towards this goal?
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness we have over 500,000 homeless in the United States. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that over 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. Over 45 million Americans live below the poverty level. Over 30 million Americans have no health insurance.
We spend over 600 billion dollars a year on war. We spend more on our war machine than the next 8 countries combined. Are we creating something of value for humanity or perpetuating a mentality that is doomed to failure?
Mikhail Gorbachev, who was instrumental in the ending of the Cold War and the human rights that its end brought to hundreds of millions of people wrote, “The time has come to choose a new direction of global development, to opt for a new civilization.”
That new direction means reaching towards goals that serve the well-being of humanity and the rights of each human life. What is the benefit of another nuclear warhead? What is the value of a child going to sleep feeling safe and secure?
Yoga gives us each the opportunity to expand truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy within our own hearts. These emotions and feelings will then give rise to actions that can begin a wave of change.
What can one person do? What steps to take? If you ignite the fire of your determination to move towards change the universe will provide you an opportunity to help with creating a new direction. Guaranteed!
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.
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What Are The Benefits of Corporate Mindfulness Programs?

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and  overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals.

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Large companies such as Google, Aetna, and General Mills have been early adopters of wellness and mindfulness programs for their employees.

So how exactly can mindfulness, yoga, and meditation help improve operational efficiency and positively impact your bottom line?  

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals. New estimates show that up to 22% of employers are offering mindfulness training, which means the majority are being left behind.

Here are 7 areas in which mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can benefit companies:

 

  1. Healthier Employees and Increased Wellbeing

Google employees who participated in their Search Inside Yourself Mindfulness Program reported that their emotional drain was down 34%.  A study on Pubmed showed that after two weeks of mindfulness training, participants experienced significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than participants in the control group. According to a study in the prestigious journal, Nature, mindfulness has been shown to activate areas of the brain associated with emotional awareness and emotional management. Another study showed that yoga led to the greatest increase in feelings of well-being, while sitting meditation led to lower feelings of self-judgement.

 

  1. Increased Creativity and Higher Performance

When Intel evaluated their wellness program, they noticed a two-point (on a ten-point scale) increase in employees having new ideas and insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and collaboration efforts. At Google, employees reported a 32% greater ability to focus and be more effective after mindfulness training.

 

  1. Financial Savings for the Company

Aetna’s mindfulness program reduced healthcare costs by 7% resulting in a $6.3 million savings per year. Search Inside Yourself has demonstrated through 13,000 participants that wellness programs can save $3000 per year on gained productivity. Studies also show that an online wellness program can be as effective and much cheaper than an in-person program.

 

  1. Stress Reduction

Stress is estimated to cost enterprises $300 billion per year according to the World Health Organization. Not only that, but highly stressed employees incur $2000 more per year in health care costs. And with 18% of women and 25% of men reporting an increase in stress levels over the last 30 years, it’s worth finding a solution for. The World Economic Forum discussed stress as being the cause of 75% of hospital visits and mindfulness as the potential antidote.  At Intel’s Awake Mindfulness Program, employees noticed a 2 point decrease in stress and overwhelm and a 3 point increase in overall happiness and wellbeing.

 

  1. Improves Business Decisions and Prevent Investment Mistakes

According to the Wharton School of Business and INSEAD Business School in Singapore, meditation helps people resist the “Sunk Cost Bias,” which is the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior costs to influence current decisions. Mindfulness has also been shown to help with identifying when a decision should be made, gathering information, coming to a conclusion, and learning from feedback in a more unbiased way.

 

  1. Leadership, Vision, and Moral Intelligence

Google’s leadership was 29% better able to maintain calm and poise in difficult situations after they completed mindfulness training.  A study on ResearchGate shows that greater emotional intelligence has been associated with higher managerial and leadership performance. Institutes for Mindful Leadership and General Mills partnered on a mindfulness program which resulted in 93% of participants reporting that the training helped them create space for innovation, and 70% saying the training made a positive difference in their ability to think strategically. A University of Westminster study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings revealed that meditation training significantly enhanced overall self-confidence, as well as individual skills like inspiring a shared vision and demonstrating moral intelligence among senior managers.

 

  1. Boosts Mental Health and Reduces Drug and Alcohol Relapse

A recent study from University of Lund in Sweden showed that mindfulness can be as effective as traditional talk therapy for anxiety and depression. Researchers in Washington and New Mexico found those who completed a mindfulness and relapse intervention combination program reported significantly lower risk of relapse to substance use and heavy drinking; and among those who used substances, they found significantly fewer days of substance use and heavy drinking at the 6-month follow-up.

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online’s Corporate Wellness Program

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga is San Diego’s largest independently owned yoga studio, and sponsor of Pilgrimage Yoga Online, an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos and classes.  We’ve worked with thousands of individuals across the country to reach their wellness goals, which include everything from stress relief to weight loss to being able to handle conflict to staying organized at work.

Our online wellness and mindfulness program is an affordable and effective option for companies not local to our San Diego area, and features complete access to our online yoga and meditation library, our online resource center, and personalized check-ins with a PYO program representative, who will guide you through the process of establishing and tracking your wellness goals. Based on your specific needs, we schedule and host live seminars, meditations, and yoga classes via webcast, and can work directly with your employees during these sessions. Our team of highly trained meditation and yoga professionals have hundreds of years of combined experience guiding newcomers and long-time practitioners alike through mindfulness practices that ease stress and promote well-being.

New studies are coming out daily to support mindfulness, meditation, and yoga as beneficial across the board. The results are clear: happier and well-balanced employees, higher levels of productivity, and increased soft-skills that are critical in developing functional teams, projects and more.

Mindfulness programs are here to stay. The only question is: will your company innovate and stay ahead?

For further information on an effective and affordable online wellness program, please email zach@pilgrimageyoga.com for discounted rates.

 

 

Zach Saltzman graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications.  After working in Retail Management for 4 years and seeing the stress and overwhelm that employees have to deal with in the 21st century he began to study the intersection of business and mindfulness. He has been practicing meditation for 10 years and still finds it a challenge!  Some of his passions include all things health-related, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, travel, and much more.

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Where Is The Best Kirtan In San Diego?

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings.

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Kirtan is a meditational practice under the yoga umbrella, set to music.  It involves chanting: participants chant divine words and phrases together as a communal chorus. The basic idea is to clear the clutter of the mind’s attachment to the outer world, replacing that clutter with focused thoughts of creation, Creator and our place in the universe. To be sure, Kirtan is a devotional practice.

 

To me, Kirtan is the easiest form of meditating. Sitting in solitary silence with one-pointed focus, even for short periods of time is quite challenging. It can be daunting and downright discouraging, especially for those new to meditation.  The fact is, many who meditate repeat chants inwardly, silently as the source of focus. Chanting gives you something to do. It focuses the mind on the chant, on the underlying meaning, on the repetition, on the reminder of our higher nature. So for newcomers especially, Kirtan is a good place to start a meditation practice.

 

As old as the tradition is (thousands of years), Kirtan is still relatively unknown as a practice in the west, both within the yoga community and without. In fact, I only know of a few places around my home, San Diego, that offer this magical meditation experience. I feel fortunate to be a part of a weekly Kirtan gathering at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights, which I have led for several years now at our weekly Thursday night gatherings. We’ve had many band members come and go throughout the years, different instrumentation, and different audiences, but what I love the most is that it always feels the same–a community experiencing joy and peace together.

 

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings:

 

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga

 

kirtan1

Time: Every Thursday night 8:30 – 9:30p

Location: Normal Heights East Room

Cost: $5 donation

Sign-Up Link

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Kirtan Band has been playing weekly Kirtan events for more than 7 years. Each Thursday evening we create a set list of our favorite and seasonal chants to share with the community. Participants are encouraged to sit in chairs, on the floor (with many yoga props, of course), or stand up and dance. We know that Kirtan can be a vulnerable expression for some, as it involves public singing and dancing, and we aim to provide a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere. Prepare to chant, and learn about some major cornerstones of yoga philosophy that are the foundational elements of Kirtan.

For our friends who live outside the San Diego area, we live stream our Kirtans through our Facebook page. Join us every Thursday evening for musical meditation!

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community 

 

Time: Every Sunday 5:00-6:00p

Location: Pacific Beach, San Diego

Cost: Donation

Sign-Up Link

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community offers weekly festival every Sunday night, featuring a number of events, of which Kirtan is a part. Whereas Pilgrimage’s Kirtan events stand alone, the Hare Krishna Community offers Kirtan as part of a larger schedule of events, including lectures and meals together. Check out their weekly schedule to find out more information!

 

Himalyan Heritage

 

Time: First Friday of the Month (subject to change)

Location: Encinitas, CA 

Time: 7:00-9:00p

Sign-Up Link

 

Led by Sundaram and Hilary, the Hamalyan Heritage Satsang encourages devotees of all paths to attend these Kirtan events. Each Kirtan is led by a variety of local Kirtan musicians and leaders. You can even sign up for their mailing list to stay up to date with new Kirtan events!

 

San Diego County Kirtan

 

Time: 2nd Saturday of the month, 5:00-6:30p

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego

Cost: FREE

Sign-Up Link

 

This is a monthly Kirtan practice organized on Meetup. Led by Annette Laborte, this group emphasizes the importance of being non-denominational and non-sectarian. Events are held at a local church, and participants are encouraged to feel at ease, no matter what their religious background.

 

 

I invite you to attend a Kirtan practice. It’s very enjoyable and folks depart with a heightened awareness and state of being. I so enjoy hearing comments from attendees about how wonderful they feel and what a wonderful experience they had. I’m also a bit surprised by the number of first timers who ask how long we’ve been doing the Kirtan practice. When I tell them, eight years, they are stunned.

Kirtan is an integral part of the yoga practice. The Bhakti tradition is one of the four paths in yoga to Self-Realization. It has a chapter devoted to it in the Bhagavad Gita. If you are practicing yoga, if you meditate, expand your awareness by including Kirtan into your weekly practice.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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Yoga for 12 Step Recovery: How Yoga Helps With Addiction

Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

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“For me, drugs and alcohol were a solution to an emotional and perhaps even spiritual problem, a feeling literally of disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life. And I think that when people stop using drugs and alcohol, they need another system or program of behavior.”

– Russell Brand, actor, comedian, writer, and recovering heroin addict and alcoholic.

 

As elucidated in the famous 12 Steps to Recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the pathway to recovery is a spiritual one (though not necessarily religious) that includes surrendering to a higher power and admitting that some things are beyond our personal control. As explained by Russell Brand, another belief system or program of behavior is required to walk the path of abstinence-based recovery from addiction.

Brand, in addition to being a famous actor and recovering heroin addict, is also a devoted practitioner of yoga and meditation, and he often credits these practices for his ability to remain substance-free.

But how exactly does the practice of yoga help to treat the feelings of “disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life” that are so often the fuel of addiction? Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

 

  1. Asana (Postures)

Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, are what we in the West commonly refer to as yoga. Flexibility, patience, balance, and concentration are qualities that are cultivated as we move through and hold different yoga postures.

Child’s pose, for example, symbolizes humility, surrender, and let go to a power that is greater than ourselves. Warrior pose represents the cultivation of strength and courage in the face of challenges. Balancing postures, such as tree pose, balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the opposing left and right sides of the body, bringing equilibrium to both body and mind.

The qualities of strength, endurance, balance, and humility that are developed “on the mat,” in both body and mind, are qualities that can easily be taken “off the mat” and used as armor on the often perilous path to sobriety.

 

  1. Pranayama (Breathing Techniques)

Pranayama, which is the regulation of the breath, cleanses the nervous system, increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, and improves our mental clarity. A practice such as Nadi Shodana, or alternate nostril breathing, which also reduces stress and anxiety, balances the hemispheres of the brain, and detoxifies the body, and can be done in just 15-20 minutes a day. In this way, the practice of pranayama can develop the conditions that support a clear, balanced, and sober mind.

 

  1. Mindfulness (Meditation)

Mindfulness is being in a state of awareness that allows us to be fully present in the moment so that we aren’t continuously thinking about the fiction of the past and future. Minfulness is a quality that can be cultivated through meditation, which can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day for silent sitting (there are also plenty of guided meditations that can assist us through the process). By engaging in meditation, we gain greater control over the reins of our own lives by observing our thoughts and feelings, rather than letting them take us over.

By carving time out of our schedules to stop and meditate, we learn to respond intentionally to problems, rather than follow through on knee-jerk reactions, and this can help us avoid relapses into drug or alcohol consumption.

 

  1. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God)

The 11th step of the 12 Steps of AA, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out,” elucidates the connection between surrendering to a higher power (although it is up to the individual to decide what exactly that means to him or her) and successful recovery from addiction.

This practice is consistent with yoga sutra (the foundational texts of yoga) 1.23, which describes the practice of Isvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘supreme,’ ‘personal,’ or ‘God.’ Pranidhana translates to ‘dedication,’ ‘devotion,’ or ‘surrender.’ As explained on jivamuktiyoga.com, “The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana… will help to cure the afflictions of the mind that cause pain and suffering, as it is designed to redirect our energy away from our selfish desires and personal dramas, and towards the ultimate pursuit of Oneness.”

As explained by Brand in the quote beginning this article, the problem of addiction is primarily an emotional and/or spiritual one. Speaking of his own experience, Brand states: “From the onset of adulthood, drugs and alcohol were just my way of coping with the world.” The reality is that the modern world can sometimes seem cold, cruel, and uncaring, and people often turn to substances to heal feelings of pain or emptiness within.

 

However, using the above four yoga practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, and surrender as an alternative system or program of behavior to heal our bodies, hearts, and minds and connect us to something greater than ourselves, we can transform the state of our lives from that of self-medicating just to exist in this modern-day world, to that of creating meaningful lives centered in well-being, happiness, and sobriety.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos taught by expert teachers in San Diego. Our classes and programs are designed specifically for yogis and spiritual enthusiasts who are on the go, live around the world, or find it challenging to sync schedules with the local yoga studio. With thousands of hours of combined experience, our staff has seen huge success helping others create and maintain healthy habits and sustained mindfulness. Whether you’re looking for fitness, mindfulness, meditation, or even learning how to chant kirtan, we are ready to practice with you every step of the way. Sign-up today for a complimentary 7-day trial!

 

AUTHOR BIO: Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

 

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Behind The Music of Shambhu: A ‘Soothe’ Moment in a Hectic World.

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

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“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,”

—from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

“You will hear everything from jazz to instrumental folk to breezy pop to world fusion and even a hint of new age on Soothe, and it all goes down silky smooth.”

—Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter

 

Music has the power to transform our lives and hence the world.

 

As I drove to work the other day my mind was spinning with all the things that were going wrong with a remodel of my new yoga studio. It was not the way I wanted to start my day. I knew just the antidote: turn on some heartfelt, relaxing music and center myself in my breathing. I chose the new album Soothe by Shambhu and it did the trick!

 

Reviewer Bill Binkelman from Zone Music Reporter describes the music: “Soulfulness runs throughout each track on Soothe like a slow, lazy brook winding its way through a forest, at times burbling over rocks, and other times flowing serenely with sunlight shimmering off the gently rippling surface.”

 

Soothe not only uplifted my own spirit but I started using Shambhu’s music as a peaceful backdrop for the yoga classes that I teach. Then I got curious about how Shambhu was able to convey a feeling of calm serenity in his music.

 

Shambhu’s adult life has been rooted in spirit. He discovered meditation in college and over time he was inspired to transform his rock style into a serene, instrumental flow that Feng Shui Mommy blogger Bailey Gaddis described as ‘mind medicine’.

 

“I was jamming with musicians in New York when I met drummer Narada Michael Walden. He had just connected with meditation guru Sri Chinmoy and his students – guitarists John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. Narada invited me to meet his teacher and learn meditation.  Sri Chinmoy saw music as inspiration, not entertainment, and he encouraged music as a soulful  expression of meditation. 18 months later I joined and found myself jamming with Carlos who played a quiet and expressive guitar music. When he played, listeners had their eyes closed, they explored the music inside the silence, and the music expressed a calmness. When we played acoustic guitars as a duo, I could feel my soulful heart. I loved it, and I later brought that experience into my own music.”

 

 

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

 

Soothe features many great instrumentalists who create a symphony of calming sound, with Shambhu at the helm on acoustic and electric guitars. Musicians include Michael Manring on bass, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Frank Martin on piano, Paul McCandless on reeds, Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano sax and wind synth, George Brooks on soprano sax, Ravichandra Kulur on bansuri flute, Kristin Hoffmann on vocals, Todd Boston on steel guitar, and Gurumurthy V on tabla.

 

Shambhu’s music invites the listener to participate in a dream for a better world, which will be created by individuals striving for their own betterment. His music is a pathway of sound into the ocean of love that each of us has within. His message is one of peace and the potential of each of us to reach into the realm of heart and soul.

 

And that brings me back to music makers and their effect on the world. I quoted from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy at the beginning of this writing. Further along in his poem, written in 1888, he writes:

 

“For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.”

 

If you are local to the San Diego area, join us on Tuesday September 26th, 2017 from 7:45-8:30p, where Shambhu will be accompanying Sujantra’s meditation class. Pilgrimage Yoga offers free weekly meditations at both of its San Diego locations, suitable for practitioners of all levels. Join us for music and meditation!

 

Visit ShambhuMusic.com to listen and buy! Download the title track from ‘Soothe’ for free at soothecd.com.

 

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Health Benefits of Massage & Spa Treatments

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices…

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Massage and spa treatments offer an opportunity to be pampered and soothed in pleasant surroundings. Many people enjoy these treatments as a way to “get away from it all.” While many of these treatments have cosmetic effects, some also provide health benefits.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices collectively known as bodywork, massage has long been known to have benefits for the musculoskeletal system. In traditional healing, it is also a way to deliver herbal medicines through the skin or from inhaling the essential oils mixed into the massage oil. Massage may include stroking, pressing, tapping, kneading and other tissue techniques as well as the use of heated stones, joint manipulation and stretching exercises.

Different Types of Massage

There are dozens of different forms of massage.

  • Swedish massage– one of the most common forms; it uses long strokes of muscles and tissues. The masseuse adjusts the pressure from light to firm depending on the client’s preferences and needs.
  • Deep tissue massage — as the name implies, this type of massage targets tissues and muscles under the surface layer of skin. This is designed to realign tissues and loosen the fascia, or tight covering over the individual muscles, and requires very firm pressure.
  • Neuromuscular therapy– combines massage with techniques to mobilize stiff and painful joints or correct muscle imbalances.
  • Shiatsu– blends mild caresses with direct pressure on individual pressure or trigger points to help relax and relieve pain.
  • Thai massage– combines massage with yoga-like postures, which can help loosen the joints and correct skeletal alignment. The massage therapist may use hands, feet, legs and knees to position you correctly during the massage.

The Many Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Some of the effects of massage have been well-studied, while others rely on anecdotal reports. There is no question that massage can relax you and help to relieve stress. Research has shown that massage can:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Relieve multiple sclerosis by reducing pain and tight (spastic) muscles
  • Reduce pain and anxiety in post-surgical patients for chest or abdominal surgery or any kind of surgery that is related to muscles or ligaments. It is also an effective treatment for those with general myalgia
  • Lower blood pressure, with the effects lasting up to 72 hours in one study.
  • Relieve tense muscles and reduces spasms; it has been found
  • Relieve chronic pain conditions and migraine headaches.

Researchers have even found that Swedish massage can increase a type of white blood cells that help protect against viruses.

What are Spa Treatments?

Although massage is probably the most common and popular spa treatment, others include facials and body treatments such as waxing or salt scrubs and body wraps with seaweed or minerals. A spa might also offer more advanced services like a chemical peel or laser therapy or permanent hair removal with electrolysis. Manicures and pedicures are also common, and many spas also offer additional services such as hair cuts, styling, coloring and makeup.

Health Benefits of Spa Treatments

The health benefits of spa therapies have not been as well studied as massage. However, there is evidence that regular spa visits are correlated with fewer sick days, better sleep and fewer hospitalizations. For example, exfoliating the skin with scrubs and similar treatments helps remove dead skin cells and may improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. Hot tubs and other heated therapies can relax muscles and help relieve chronic pain. Simply being pampered in a spa can promote the release of the “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, which in turn can help reduce stress.

If nothing else, a spa is a place to get away. For many people it is the ability to disconnect from the outside world that is most important. Being pampered and coddled doesn’t hurt, either. The best way to find out if massage and spa therapy work for you is simply to try it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Biel is a popular well recognized health and lifestyle expert. Sarah is well qualified in her field and is passionate about the well being, and mental state of her clients. Sarah works at Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa which offers life changing treatments based on ancient healing practices.

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Hamatreya Poem Meaning: Ruminations on a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poem

Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid 1800’s and expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature.

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Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid-1800’s.

Its message is well worth contemplation in our day and age as individuals and nations reckon with the forces of nature. Well beyond ideology or opinion, the poem expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature. The core theme of the poem was taken from Emerson’s reading of ancient Hindu writings.

The poem in its entirety appears at the end of this essay.

Emerson guides us to see the futility in our boasting and pride and points towards an awareness of the cycle of life. Earth is given a voice in this poem. This awareness of earth’s living relationship to each of us is essential for any meaningful discussion of humankind’s relationship to nature.

The poem has three voices: the earth, the impartial narrator and a voice that reflects, in the last stanza, on the power of the earth’s song. The poem begins with the narrator speaking for various men of the time and their pride at possessing that which they own: their properties, orchards, dogs and families and their resounding belief in their ownership: “Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s…my trees…my hill…my dog.”

The narrator then ponders: “Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds.” The narrator drives home his point: “Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys/Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;/Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet/Clear of the grave.” Emerson’s wisdom exposes the vain and fleeting pride of human beings when it comes to their relationship to the earth.

Emerson then ratchets up the poem to another level of intensity with a sub-section that he titles Earth-Song. In it the narrator continues in the theme of exposing the futile vanity of possession and then gives voice to the earth: “They called me theirs,/Who so controlled me;/Yet every one/Wished to stay, and is gone,/How am I theirs, If they cannot hold me, /But I hold them?”

The poem ends with the narrator reflecting on all he has heard and learnt upon hearing the earth speak:

When I heard the Earth-song,

I was no longer brave;

My avarice cooled

Like lust in the chill of the grave.

The entire poem:

Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint,
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil
Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool, and wood.
Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “’Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s.
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
They added ridge to valley, brook to pond,
And sighed for all that bounded their domain;
“This suits me for a pasture; that’s my park;
We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge,
And misty lowland, where to go for peat.
The land is well,—lies fairly to the south.
’Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back,
To find the sitfast acres where you left them.”
Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds
Him to his land, a lump of mould the more.
Hear what the Earth say:—
                EARTH-SONG
          “Mine and yours;
          Mine, not yours.
          Earth endures;
          Stars abide—
          Shine down in the old sea;
          Old are the shores;
          But where are old men?
          I who have seen much,
          Such have I never seen.
          “The lawyer’s deed
          Ran sure,
          In tail,
          To them and to their heirs
          Who shall succeed,
          Without fail,
          Forevermore.
          “Here is the land,
          Shaggy with wood,
          With its old valley,
          Mound and flood.
          But the heritors?—
          Fled like the flood’s foam.
          The lawyer and the laws,
          And the kingdom,
          Clean swept herefrom.
          “They called me theirs,
          Who so controlled me;
          Yet every one
          Wished to stay, and is gone,
          How am I theirs,
          If they cannot hold me,
          But I hold them?”
When I heard the Earth-song
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.

*Read our other articles on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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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 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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Peace

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean?…

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What is peace?

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean? When we look around we don’t see peace offered up like a commodity. We can’t buy it in a store. There are no peace vendors, so to speak. So, how do we acquire this ethereal concept that we all want but can’t touch?

Most of the time peace is defined by the use of negation. In other words, what peace is not. Peace is the absence of war and violence. Peace is freedom from disturbances; from antagonism, antipathy, enmity, hatred, hostility, unfriendliness, alienation, breach, divorce, estrangement, rupture, schism, scission, severance, dissent, dissidence, anarchy, disorder, disturbance, strife, turmoil… all things that peace is not.

But peace can be defined by affirmative qualities, too. Harmony, compatibleness, unity, cohesiveness, affinity, serenity, empathy, connection, tranquility, sweetness, empathy, understanding, love… factors that are peaceful or that lend themselves to a peaceful state of being.

Peace is a state of being.

Peace remains an ethereal quality. But it is dependent on certain factors. Truth, non-harming (ahimsa), compassion, empathy, harmony, all formless qualities, yet they are absolutely necessary in the formation of being a peaceful soul. And this is where we hit the nail on the head. Peace is an inner quality. In the end, there is truly no place to find peace except within one’s self.

While peace remains formless, non-peace can take on physical qualities. Dis-harmony brings about tension, stress, loneliness, anger, hostility, disease, all qualities that mire us with outward, mental anguish. And these manifest physically; we turn to drugs, alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, excessive shopping, inappropriate sexual behavior… we are negligent of our bodies, our vehicles, all physical things we use in an attempt to substitute for our general dis-harmoniousness. When we are disharmonious there is no space to explore our inner being, so we turn to external, physical ‘remedies.’

It has well been said many times by great advocates of peace that peace can’t be bought, nor brokered. It can’t be negotiated or contracted. Peace isn’t something you vote for. Peace is ONLY an inner quality of being. And I think peace is only attainable when we learn to live in a state of AWE. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said it all:

“If you are not in AWE you are not paying attention.”

Our souls are mired in the everyday experience. We completely loose sight of the miracle of our existence. Our separateness conditioning is the chain that binds us to our physical form. We seem to forget that life on earth is the only life we have found in the universe (to date). We look upon life as commonplace and we find no peace in that. We find peace when we pay attention!

Meditation is a door opener to peace. In the practice of pratyahara, we withdraw our physical senses from our immediate attention so that we might bring awareness to the qualities that foster inner peace. Meditation is about heightened awareness. It’s NOT naptime. We develop a state of awe. We recognize the miracle of our existence and we tap into the infinite, the timeless. We make peace with life, with the universe.

Because we are a part of this universe, by the definition of Unity, singularity, we always have been and we always will be.

Our being began as a spark in the ‘big bang.’ Everything emanated from that singular impetus. It’s comforting to know that the universe and we are one. Life is not just biological. The universe is life. We are universal beings. And we are peace.

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Loneliness

Sri Chinmoy’s essay, “Empty Moments,” is about the sensation of loneliness and those feelings of emptiness…

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By Sujantra

“The reason you suffer from empty moments is because you are not playing inside the garden of your heart with your heart’s child, the soul. “ — Sri Chinmoy

Loneliness 

Sri Chinmoy’s essay, “Empty Moments,” is about the sensation of loneliness and those feelings of emptiness we’ve all experienced at one time or another in our life. This essay asserts that such feelings have nothing to do with outer circumstance; loneliness does not arise because we lack friends or intimate relationships; the sensation of emptiness is not caused by having nothing meaningful to do. The origin of these feelings, according to Sri Chinmoy, lies in a spiritual cause, a failure to know ourselves deeply.

Vast Expanse

On first reading, I must admit I found these assertions baffling. If loneliness wasn’t a result of being alone and if emptiness wasn’t caused by a lack of meaningful activities, then what was the cause? I had always assumed the solution to any problem was to make changes in my external life – find new friends or reconnect with old ones, for instance. To me, the solution to feelings of emptiness was a ‘no-brainer’ – get busy! Take a class, get a hobby or volunteer for something, anything. It was only after taking up meditation that I gained some insight into what Sri Chinmoy was saying. Gradually, I came to understand that even in situations where outer change is necessary, ultimately all meaningful transformation comes from within. The solution is not more money, more friends or more things to do. These are all good and necessary elements of life, but to get to the root of our deficiencies, we need to look within and discover the person we really are. This is the change that matters most.

The Problem and the Solution 

Feelings of loneliness and emptiness are warning signs that we need to pay more attention to our inner life. They may very well be present because we are paying too much attention to our external life. Sri Chinmoy tells us that loneliness and emptiness arise because our thoughts and actions have drifted away from the light of our soul. The beautiful phrase he uses is, “we’re no longer playing with our soul-child.” It is by playing with our soul-child that we remain inside its love-light. In the soul’s light, we are constantly refreshed with new energies and the insights we need to remain in harmony with others. From this perspective, it’s easy to see how friends and activities, of themselves, cannot solve the deeper problem of loneliness and emptiness.

If we can meditate every day, play with our soul-child each and every day, our life will never be empty. But who prevents this soulful play? It is the ego working through the mind and the body’s vital nature. The ego is too selfish, the mind too proud and the vital too restless to want to play with the soul. They are small and limited creatures; the soul is vast and joyful, eternally content. If we can cause the ego, mind and vital nature to sit with the soul once or twice a day, they too can gradually become vast, our life will become vast, able to embrace all things and there will never be an empty moment. Whole and complete within yourself, every breath will bring the fullness of life to you. You will see that you are not empty and can never be alone; all is within you. This is the vision-light of the soul.

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To Inspire Change: Sharing Meditation with the World

It is easy to get discouraged by the bad news that echoes around us on a daily basis…

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By Sujantra McKeever

It is easy to get discouraged by the bad news that echoes around us on a daily basis. In contrast, the practice of meditation can bring us a deep feeling of peace. As practitioners, we may begin to wonder how to share this peace with others and whether it is possible to use our practice to transform the world around us. It can seem daunting to speak of meditation with people who have never experienced it. They might have preconceived notions about it, and they may have difficulty understanding a meditator’s experiences, or they may simply be resistant to learning about it. So how can we share our enthusiasm about meditation with others?

Creekside

What I’ve learned as I’ve developed my practice is the importance of embodying the peace of meditation. We must discover for ourselves what a peaceful consciousness is so we can enter that state and share it, even in silence. In fact, the majority of my teacher’s teachings were given in silent meditation or while playing music. At that time he wasn’t giving verbal instruction; he was entering into a state of meditation and inspiring us with that energy.

Vastness Sky

To inspire positive change in our world, the very best thing we can do is to enter into a deep, peaceful state of meditation. During World War II, the Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi, was criticized for focusing on spirituality while his country India, an ally of England, was being drawn into the war. People didn’t understand why he didn’t gather the disciples and encourage them to fight; but he noted that the source of all action is thought, and the source of thought is the Self. When one can consciously abide in the Self, that is the greatest offering one can make to the world. Without that awareness and intention, thought and action are pointless for they lack the soul’s power. His response has always stuck with me. Deep awareness and intention may, or may not, lead to external action but it always has a profound effect in the world.

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Ep 45 – Consciousness

Consciousness. Exploring body, vital, mind and heart consciousness…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 45 – Consciousness. Exploring body, vital, mind and heart consciousness.

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Ep 44 – Truth in Thought, Word and Deed

Truth in thought, word and deed. Exploring truth in your life…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 44 – Truth in thought, word and deed. Exploring truth in your life.

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Ep 43 – The Mandela

The Mandela. Creating an external form of your inner dimension…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 43 – The Mandela. Creating an external form of your inner dimension.

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Ep 42 – Going Beyond Religion

Going beyond religion. Exploring the beauty and limits of yoga…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 42 – Going beyond religion. Exploring the beauty and limits of yoga.

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EP 18 – Danni Pomplun

Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 18 – Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga. Currently residing in San Francisco, Danni will be the lead-off yoga teacher at the Festival of Yoga in San Diego on June 17th. in conjunction with the third annual United Nations International Day of Yoga.

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Ep 41 – Exploring the Soul’s Uniqueness

Exploring the soul’s uniqueness and the ego’s separativity…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 41 – Exploring the soul’s uniqueness and the ego’s separativity.

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Outlive Relationships

The Life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years…

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The Life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years.

Modern science has progressed such that we are able to live longer and healthier lives. We are able to function with high quality of life much further into our late years. This sounds great, doesn’t it? Longer life. Better quality. Why not?

But there’s a down side.

We have this capacity to outlive our relationships!

As we live longer, we have a greater chance to outlive relationships. This includes family, friends, pets, (unless you have a tortoise), people you admire and respect but don’t associate with, public figures, spiritual teachers and more. If you have lived into your nineties you have surly experienced this. Everyone you started off with is gone.

If you have a very old person in your world, you are lucky. They are fortunate, too. Most fortunate! Many old folks will live to see their children die, some, their grandchildren. All will see their friends depart… their spouses, their teachers, their acquaintances, their neighbors… Many folks depart totally alone, from boredom, loneliness.

Even when we are young we begin outliving personal relationships. Parents depart, sometimes friends, too. Sometimes we loose a small child… and then there are marriages. The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years. People wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry (if they remarry at all). The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old. (2012 stats)

Between 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.

Ok, let’s not dwell…

What to do?

Stay active. Make new friends. Let go.

There are many amusing testimonials attributing to long life. Two smokes a day (for 100 years), port wine, beer, a good cigar, bacon, and a kilo of chocolate each week. But most folks seem to also include these three: Staying active, making new friends and letting go.

Notwithstanding a healthy lifestyle, staying on your feet (as opposed to a chair) and doing what you love seems to be a common theme. Finding joy in your activities rather than stress or tedium keeps you engaged and egger to live.

Making new friends is vital. The old friends are gone. And yet, we need each other. Having good social networks and regular interactions keeps the heart warm and the spirit high.

Letting go. Loss is a part of life. People and relationships come and go. Things change. We need to be able cast aside attachments without loosing ourselves. We also need to skirt drama and not get caught up in the stress of the particulars of others.

Last, but not least: Live for God. Be good. Live by the golden rule. Help others.

In the end, it’s just, ‘the universe and ourselves.’

Reference:

Five Secrets to living to be 100:

https://personalexcellence.co/blog/longevity/

More Secrets testimonials:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/01/health/longevity-secrets-live-to-100/

Stats:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

(2.7 million deaths annually, U.S. (attrition) all causes.)

Fun:

105 year old woman eats bacon every day.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/09/105-year-old-woman-says-bacon-keeps-her-alive/

More Fun:

http://modernhealthmonk.com/23-secrets-of-longevity/

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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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Compassion

Compassion is an evolved state of being. Compassion is learned…

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”Plato

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”Albert Einstein

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe

An Evolved State of Being

Compassion is an evolved state of being. Compassion is learned. Compassion is both a giving and a receiving. By adopting compassion as a trait, we evolve ourselves, our neighbors and communities, the world and the universe (all the same thing). Compassion is a trait that transcends all levels of enfoldment as we ascend the ladder of inclusion. Compassion is the trait that first lifts us from abject, animal barbarism. Compassion is a ‘heart quality’ and as I have written many times in the past, the heart can create more of any quality that you so desire.

Believe it or not, compassion is a trait handed down through the generations of the ‘lower’ animals, as well. Charles Darwin had some very interesting and profound thoughts on the topic. His theory of Natural Selection posits that traits beneficial to the survival of individuals get passed along to the future generations of the group, increasing the survival rate of the species. Traits not beneficial to the population get weeded out through attrition or extinction.

Survival of the Fittest

Did you know that Charles Darwin used, but did not coin the phrase, “Survival of the Fittest”? Herbert Spencer coined the phrase, principally to forward race and class distinctions. Darwin, in his volume, The Decent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, posited that:

“In however complex a manner this feeling (sympathy, compassion) may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities which include the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.”

And further, that “…this virtue (human concern for one another AND for lower animals), one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they extend to all sentient beings.”

Survival of the Kindest!

Darwin understood it as, “Survival of the Kindest!”

Cultivate compassion. Meditation helps. Meditation clears the mind of clutter so that heart qualities can manifest. As Plato said in the above quote, practice kindness… be kindness, “…for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

Note: Herbert Spencer’s phrase, ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes a more valid concept when the race and class distinctions are removed. However, one must realize that the compassionate component IS included in the survival equation; the more compassionate being is more fit to pass along to its offspring this and other evolutionary qualities, ensuring the survival of the group. Compassion is a quality, which is, “…increased through natural selection.”

Further, that evolution is more concerned with populations than it is with individuals. Groups separated by distance develop under the same principle (Natural Selection), while branching traits within disparate groups are particulars related to variables (environment, etc.).

Sources for further inquiry:

Modern Synthesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_synthesis

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The Secret Universe

There is a place where our true nature resides. I’ll call it, ‘The Secret Universe.’…

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There is a place where our true nature resides. I’ll call it, ‘The Secret Universe.’ It’s a place of peace, tranquility and realization. We all have this place within us… veiled. What is this veil and how do we thin it, penetrate it?

Heart/Ego

The place where our true nature resides is our heart. The veil is our ego.

We have very clear, glaring examples all around us of egocentric behavior. And as egocentric behavior grows ideals like compassion, empathy, love, benevolence and generosity frequently fall to the ground. The ego is a very powerful part of our makeup. And it’s a necessary part of our selves; it drives us to action. But unchecked the ego can be disastrous, for ourselves and those around us, for our planet… for the universe.

‘The will is strong. The flesh is stronger.’ — Bible: Matthew 26:41 (paraphrase)

It’s so very easy to let our ego rule our life. Our outward senses are overwhelmed by so much stimulus, so much temptation. Our ego fixates on these outward things and directs us away from our heart. And so we grasp and cling and accumulate in order to placate our ego, rather than releasing these fleeting desires for a more relevant, universal understanding.

Heart Qualities

In the past I have written about the heart knowing truth. The heart knows truth, the ego ‘lies.’ The ego should motivate. The heart should guide.

Our heart is the most powerful, creative thing in the universe. Our heart can create any quality, or more of any quality that we want in our life. Think of it like this: A second child comes into your life. You don’t take love away from the first child and give it to the second… You create more love. Our heart creates more love!

In the same manner our heart can create any quality we want in our life. And cultivating heart qualities benefits not only us. As we become better, more discerning humans, our heightened awareness benefits those around us, and the universe, as well. When we become more heart-qualified so does the universe!

Live within the heart-centered space of the ‘Secret Universe.’ Meditate on the heart qualities you want in your life. Become those qualities as you create them.

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Interviews Podcast E14: Layla Halterman

Live your wildest dreams by making good choices…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 14: Live your wildest dreams by making good choices. A fun and inspiring interview with teen-age yoga teacher Layla Halterman

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Is Yoga Broken?

The question asked: Is Yoga Broken?…

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There has been a great deal of talk and discussion about the current state and direction yoga is headed. The question asked: Is Yoga Broken?

Alanna Kaivalia, who we interviewed about a year ago for pyo.yoga and two other teachers, Tara Stiles and Anna Conversano chime in: (an interview by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy.)

Read it here: http://yhoo.it/2ca4HFc

Leslie Kamanoff, in another interview with Pilgrimage Yoga online also weighs in on the future of yoga.

https://www.pilgrimageyogaonline.com/leslie-kaminoff/

broken_yoga1

… And here’s my take:

Yoga is a business. Whether you are an independent teacher, an employee or a studio owner, a non-profit or a for-profit, and ashram or a retail operation, it’s a business. There has to be a positive cash flow. The operation has to support itself; it has to have legs. And as we know, business practices can sometimes (or frequently) overlook, side step, disregard what might be deemed ethical, moral, virtuous standards. Yoga is no different.

The moral, ethical bar is set very high in the yoga world. The ideals and principles are clear-cut. The yamas and niyamas are solid and incorruptible. Derivation from these principles doesn’t corrupt them. It does, however, impact the overall impressions of the industry by the public. And it does impact the viability of the yoga business, in the long term.

Honor Before Profit

In the west, sadly, the capitalistic approach of business is predominately, ‘profit before honor,’ whereas, it is implied by its foundational principles that yoga should be based on, ‘honor before profit.’ This idea should be the foundation of all businesses. Sadly, it is not. We see plainly in our economy how profit is king, to the detriment of our people, the environment, the larger world, our vision of life… and the yoga industry is no different.

The yoga world has seen some big pundits go down in flames. In every case, the most fundamental tenants of yoga have been abandoned, violated. In every case, profit has been elevated above honor.

broken_yoga2

Buy Impulsively?

I recall reading an interesting article a few years ago on the marketing of yoga. The idea was that business marketing centers around the premise of getting people to buy impulsively; to buy what you don’t need, to buy things that are bad for you, to buy junk, to buy and then buy again… and the author suggested quite implicitly that “Yoga doesn’t have that problem.” I couldn’t disagree more! Just look at the yoga fashion industry. Look at the yoga merchandise industry. Look at the yoga brands. Even when a yoga ‘superstar’ goes down in scandal and disgrace, he simply re-brands himself and seeks to profit. And we throw ourselves and our resources at these personalities and products even when it is obvious there is something wrong. Make no mistake. Yoga and capitalism are like oil and water. They don’t mix very well, most especially in the absence of honor.

So what do we do?

Despite what we are led to believe, the consumer has the power. If we mindlessly buy crap we will only have crap in our lives. If we research about what we are buying we will become a more discerning consumer. And that’s what is needed, in yoga and in general. We need to be more mindful. We need to stop buying crap. When we do, the crap will disappear. A business can only survive if it has customers.

One of the biggest participants in the yoga fashion industry started in a garage. Now, most, if not all, of their product is made in china. We still pay the same high retail price while they exploit cheap labor explicitly for increased profit. They make lofty claims about, ‘giving back’ and ‘improving working conditions,’ but this pretty package of goodwill is generated by virtue of the exploitation of the foreign worker, the lack of opportunity for the domestic worker, AND the exploitation of the end consumer, you and me. And we tolerate it. The cost of producing a yoga pant in China is about 30 cents in labor. The retail price for the same pant is $70-80.00.

Yoga’s highest purpose is to build discernment in the practitioner. Yoga is so much more than just a workout. When we discern that we are being manipulated and exploited we should put ourselves in check. We should make a conscious choice ‘not to be deceived.’ We must make conscious choices of what to buy and who to follow. Yoga’s purity breaks down through the apathy of unconscious consumers.

Support the mom and pops. Steer away from the institutions. Don’t be swayed by deceptive marketing. Be a discerning consumer. Research your leaders. Choose wisely. Yoga isn’t broken. We are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Follow Your Heart

When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was…

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When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was talking about love relationships and how our unbridled passions can perhaps lead us down the wrong path. It struck me as funny then, and now, that we blame our hearts. I have always felt that my heart is the place where love and truth reside. Maybe this person should have told me, ‘not to follow my ego.’

Our Ego is Unbridled Passion

Our ego (mind/body) reacts to stimulation from our senses and then makes suggestions… powerful suggestions; do this, do that. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Our ego drives us to action. But our ego doesn’t care much whether the action is appropriate, or not. At times, our bodies scream at us to act: to buy this, to eat that, to drink this, to have indiscriminate sex, to create recklessly… At other times our ego compels us to NOT act; to resist growth, to be fearful of change, to doubt ourselves, to be uncompassionate, to be irresponsible…

Forested Road

The heart drives the discriminatory function. If you take the time to look, you will find that your heart knows what is truth, what is good, what is honorable, what is appropriate, what is love. The heart is the center of the will and the will is what ultimately controls the ego. Or it doesn’t. How many times have you cringed after some act that you knew you should not have done, but did it anyway? How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I just did that?” How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I’m still in this job” or “this situation?” You’ve ignored your heart.

‘The will is strong but the flesh is stronger…’ (Paraphrase from Bible, Matthew 26-41)

Look to your heart. Don’t be afraid. Be strong. Don’t give in to the tempting ego. Let your heart be your guide, literally! When I walk into a room the first thing I want people to perceive is my heart. Not my clothes, my car, my wallet, my personality…

Project Your Heart

We recently interviewed Aubry Wilcher, a social media phenomena about her incredible life change (Aubry Marie on InstaGram). She worked for Apple for about six years and had a promising career. But then she decided to take a leap and follow her heart-bridled passion, yoga and meditation. Her family and friends thought she was crazy. But her heart got a hold of the doubting, fear inducing ego. She quit her job and embarked on a new path. She now has over 200,000 InstaGram followers and is a leading ‘influencer’ in the yoga industry.

Her message: Don’t be afraid to quit what doesn’t serve your heart in this life. Do what your heart loves. Don’t be afraid to fail… keep trying and keep growing…

The seven deadly sins are all ego-driven. The seven virtues are all heart-driven. Our heart has the only power over the ego. Our heart knows truth, compassion and love. Our ego will ‘lie’ to us. Our ego will relentlessly steer us toward maya, illusion, to keep us from living our ‘heart’s desire. Don’t let this be you. Follow your heart!

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Philosophy Podcast E40 – Nurture Oneself

How to nurture oneself. Exploring dimensions ourselves through health and wellness…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 40 – How to nurture oneself. Exploring dimensions ourselves through health and wellness.

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Meditation Podcast E43 – Self Love

Learning to love oneself. Techniques for nurturing our deepest self…

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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 43 – Learning to love oneself. Techniques for nurturing our deepest self.

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Who am I?

I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story…

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I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story… But deep down, when I slow down, I find that I have this other ‘me’ that I can’t really touch. I know it’s there. It’s very clear and yet, indefinable… ineffable, if you will. So I ask, “What is this?:” And, “Who am I?”

If you are currently practicing yoga, you have probably already come across this dilemma. In many respects, the recognition of this inner being is central to the practice of yoga. It’s called, “discovering your ‘true’ self.” In other words, we connect with the inner, indefinable, ineffable, untouchable part that we ‘discover’ is there, nebulously, veiled, secret, dormant. Who am I?

And then amazing and numerous Self-discoveries will be made.

Star Bud

Self-discovery

All of philosophy, spiritualism and religion have within the idea of Self-discovery. In fact, each considers Self-discovery to be primus, the principle purpose of life. Some doctrines would have you attain realization vicariously by devotion to a person, other doctrines, a concept. The grand idea, however, even if it is underlying, is that YOU must do the work. It is called ‘Self’-discovery, after all.

I like to think of my inner Self as being a spark of the universal. I consider how small my vessel is compared to the cosmos. And yet, I am a part of the vast cosmos. I am within it. I am not separate from it. And I was a part of the spark, the bang, if you will, that brought the cosmos into being. Every part of what is today was contained in that first spark.

Before time, I awaited…

Since time, I have unfolded…

When time ends, I will await again. ~the Author

Man and Nature

Science Breaks Down

It’s tough to swallow an idea that can’t be explained. Our intelligence only can take us so far… then intelligence breaks down. Science breaks down. What we have left is a miracle to be recognized, and to KNOW that the entirety is a miracle. It is a ‘knowing.’ It’s faith. It’s complete confidence. It’s something you feel and experience!

The imagery of the statue of Ganesha contains a beautiful example of our ineffable, inner being and how to reconcile with our physical knowledge. Ganesha is usually depicted with one broken tusk. Symbolically, the broken tusk represents the failure of intelligence on the physical plane to explain the ineffable nature of our origin and being; we have this inner Self that we can’t explain or touch. The unbroken tusk symbolizes that only faith can transcend the gap between the physical and the inner Self. In the end our intelligence fails to explain us… but we can ‘know.’ And that ’knowing’ is the basis for realization. It’s more than belief… It’s knowing! It can bring us peace; ‘the peace which passeth all understanding.’

The following quote points to this separateness thinking that confounds our efforts to find ourselves:

“There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled `Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature,” but beavers and their dams are.”

From Starship Troopers: ~Robert Heinlein

Peace

Children of the Universe

When we recognize that we are children of the universe, when we know that we are miracles, when we know that we are not separate, we are well on our way in the discovery of our true nature, our true Self.

Because I am a part of the universe, by the definition of Unity, I always have been and I always will be… Shanti, peace.

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Philosophy Podcast E38 – The Mind the Subtle Realm

Attuning your mind to the subtle realm.

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 38 – Attuning your mind to the subtle realm.

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Meditation Podcast E41 – Love of Self

Sujantra discusses techniques for reconnecting with love of self…

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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 41 – Sujantra discusses techniques for reconnecting with love of self.

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Philosophy Podcast E37 – What Matters Most

What is dearest to your heart? Exploring what matters most, and why. Let go of expectations…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 37 – What is dearest to your heart? Exploring what matters most, and why. Let go of expectations.

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Philosophy Podcast E36 – Exploring Why

Exploring Why – Looking for change in our attitude and circumstances…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 36 – Exploring Why – Looking for change in our attitude and circumstances.

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The Benefits of Singing in a Group: How Kirtan Affects the Immune System

Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system?…

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Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system? Numerous resent studies (also: google, singing+immune) suggest that singing in a group setting reduces the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, a hormone released during periods of stress or anxiety and which can cause systemic inflammations, effecting the optimal function of the body’s natural immune system and overall health. Further, studies show that singing promotes increases in cytokines, proteins of the immune system which enhance the body’s ability to fight serious disease.

Most of the studies revolve around cancer patients who are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety coping with their ailments. Researchers found a number of changes in hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors. Those with the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression were seen to have the greatest overall benefits from singing in a group setting.

But let’s not think that only someone who is seriously infirm will benefit from choral singing (Kirtan). Taking good care of our immune systems will have long-term benefits for our overall health. In fact, biological evidence suggests that choral singing can have a whole range of social, emotional and psychological advantages to health.

The Icebreaker Effect

On a social level, studies have shown that singing in a group setting (vs. non-singing creative group activities like crafts or creative writing) produced the quickest social bonding among participants. The other non-singing groups eventually caught up in terms of bonding, but singing tended to bond the participants more quickly. The created connection through singing in a group is quick and strong. We can draw on each other’s energy in the choral setting to amplify our positive immune response more quickly.

Smilin Tom

I find this interesting because singing is considered somewhat extraordinary in our culture, whereby only those with talent, training or some ‘gift’ should participate. It seems to be socially acceptable, ‘not to sing.’ In fact, those who claim to be non-singers are the majority. So it might be said that our culture is somewhat ‘anti-singing.’ We even ridicule ‘average’ singers who express themselves (think karaoke). Not very good for our immune systems.

The emotions invoked through singing and music are as numerous as there are musicians. Exposure to a range of emotions through singing and music can enable us to seek out the pleasurable and beneficial emotions and to build on them within: compassion, joy, peace, generosity, forgiveness… immune system builders.

Psychologically, people listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness. All of these motivations are valid immune system builders. Controlling our mind and emotions, uplifting our awareness and being connected to one another surely benefits our overall health.

A Musical Vitamin

Choral singing (Kirtan) has been demonstrated to have positive benefits on our overall psychological and physical wellbeing. But don’t think that you have to be sick to benefit. On the contrary, singing in a group is like taking a vitamin.

Give yourself an immune system boost! Come sing with us.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan. San Diego’s ONLY weekly Kirtan practice. Thursday’s at 8:30pm at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. 3301 Adams Avenue, 92116

See the master schedule for Kirtan, Mindfulness, Meditation and Pranayama classes, and of course, over 80 yoga classes each week.

Here is one of our favorite videos from last year, the traditional Om Asatoma Sadgamaya. You can also find this and many others on our album Jai Ram Sita Ram available on iTunes and CDBaby.

Happy Holidays.

Tom

 

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Philosophy Podcast E34 – Emerson’s Brahma

Join a philosophical exploration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, Brahma…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 34 – Join a philosophical exploration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, Brahma.

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Philosophy Podcast E32 – Spiritual Teachers

Finding the Key to your Spiritual Journey…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 32 – Finding the Key to your Spiritual Journey.

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Philosophy Podcast E31 – Blake – Garden Of Love

William Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love.’…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 31 – William Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love.’

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Philosophy Podcast E30 – Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher

Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher. How to connect with a teacher who is no longer living…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 30 – Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher. How to connect with a teacher who is no longer living.

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Philosophy Podcast E29 – Karma

Karma – Exploring cause and effect in our thoughts and actions…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 29 – Karma – Exploring cause and effect in our thoughts and actions.

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Philosophy Podcast E28 – Devotion: Plentitude

Devotion – Connect to the Inner Sun of Plentitude…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 28 – Devotion – Connect to the Inner Sun of Plentitude.

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Philosophy Podcast E27 – Having Faith In Yourself

Having Faith In Yourself Is The Key To Spiritual Growth…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 27 – Having Faith In Yourself Is The Key To Spiritual Growth.

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Music and Meditation

Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’…

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Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’ When we meditate before our shrines, we might incorporate some gentle sounds to help clear background distractions. However, we likely won’t be trying to meditate while playing raunchy hip-hop or Led Zeppelin, nor should we practice yoga while listening to hard-hitting genres, as they tend to distract our attention rather than focusing our practice. I tend to agree with author Binazir regarding music at yoga classes. In the same manner, I’m not a fan of teachers cracking glib jokes during yoga classes. When someone is in a challenging, balancing posture and a joke is made, laughter is an enormous distraction that can potentially result in injury.

We are surrounded by music. Every media source incorporates music: even print, by suggesting music through dance-like body postures. Listen to the music used in movies, TV shows, advertising, etc. It is so routinely incorporated that it almost is unnoticed, is subliminal. It’s intent is to affect us emotionally and to get us to act on those emotions. In certain examples music might be used intentionally for evil.

Music is a vital, necessary part of our being. Our very first sounds are ‘cries of joy’ at entering a new experience. Interestingly, the first sounds purported to be ‘song’ is said to have originated by man imitating the sounds of nature. In fact, the human voice was likely the first of man’s ‘instruments.’

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And there’s a concept called Motherese, whereby a gestating mother communicates sounds (vocally) and other vibrations (kinesthetically) to the fetus, who after the 20th gestational week is capable of hearing and feeling these vibration AND remembering the vibrational patterns. This helps in the development of language and higher cognitive functions.

Music gets a pretty mundane place in our modern world. We’re so used to carrying music around with us on our little devices. We have music at our fingertips. We can put a thousand songs on a device no bigger than a postage stamp. Music is relegated to mere background noise to block out the irrelevant clutter of input and stimulus, but also to camouflage our heart’s yearning for something deeper, hence the propensity for discordant lyrics.

Music, for thousands of years was solely a performance art. There was no ‘recording,’ save for the record impressed upon the heart. Only within the last hundred years has music evolved into a canned art form. Families of old would gather in the evening around the fireplace and sing together. There was no TV, no radio, no other opportunities for ‘entertainment.’ And in some cultures, music was principally relegated to spiritual, existential thought, hence Kirtan, a gift celebrating existence.

Kirtan is one of the only events where individuals can walk in the door and sing. It’s an open invitation. There is no audition, no preconceived requirements. One simply shows up. And by its design the practice intends to provide a vehicle by which one can elevate their soul to the highest of heights. Singing, dancing, coupled with pure, soulful thoughts can fundamentally change the way we see the world and our place in it. And that is its purpose. To allow our true nature to grow, upwell and become again. Your becoming benefits the world.

Our Kirtan offerings include two CDs and our regular practice every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in Normal Heights. Sing, dance and make new friends. And please note: There will be NO KIRTAN on Nov. 24th (Thanksgiving).

See the schedule to find Kirtan, meditation, pranayama and mindfulness classes offered at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. And be sure to check out Pilgrimage Yoga Online, our huge community resource.

Happy Kirtan!

Tom

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Removing the Cloud of Doubt

Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe…

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Conscious Breathing

Yoga teaches us that mind, body, emotion and breath are all intertwined. Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe. The good news is that it’s a two-way street. The way we breathe affects our emotional, mental and physical condition as well, so we can positively influence all three by conscious breathing. Being conscious is the key. Without conscious self-awareness, we’re powerless and at the mercy of internal and external conditions.

Of course, there are times when we gladly limit our self-awareness. Sometimes we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to turn our self-awareness off so we can mindlessly enjoy intense sensations; but we do this at great risk. Willfully subverting or disregarding our awareness can become a dangerous habit. Surprisingly, we often deal with suffering and pleasure in the same way. We willfully limit our awareness. Many use intoxicants or drugs, not only for physical and emotional pain, but for entertainment as well. We accept very limiting states of mind for the sake of intensifying or blocking sensations.

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We invoke mental and emotional states in much the same way, with or without the use of drugs. Self-pity, for instance, can be seen as an attempt to minimize or ‘normalize’ pain by rejecting hope and adopting a numbing concept of ‘fate.’ As an outside observer, it is easy to see how futile this approach is. It is more difficult when the process is internalized and we are observing ourselves; but the ability to be self-observant is our best defense against a host of dangers… if we know how to employ this skill.

Breathing is an autonomic function of the body. We breathe unconsciously but by becoming conscious of our breath and consciously practicing breath techniques, we can realize the great healing power of breath. The beauty of yoga is that through regular practice we grow, by a very natural and pleasant process, into greater states of self-awareness. Becoming aware of and learning to control the breath is one of the principal teachings of yoga. If you would like to explore the yogic science of conscious breath, you can follow this link to an introductory talk and some simple breath exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrAEr8EiK64#t=18. With practice, you will be able to invoke positive mental and emotional states to replace negative ones, increase your enjoyment of life and alleviate much discomfort and suffering through conscious breathing.

Building Self-Confidence

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy once wrote this about the mind, “The function of the mind (in one’s spiritual practice) is to remove the cloud of doubt.” He went on to say “We all know that the mind plays an important role in our outer life as well as in our spiritual life. Therefore, we must not disregard the mind, rather what we should do is be always conscious of the mind.” So, we need to be conscious of our own thoughts and feelings, of our habits of thinking and a variety of other personal influences as well. This is self-awareness.

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A critical practice for the development of self-awareness is meditation. When you’re sitting quietly and breathing calmly, you become aware of your mind’s movements and the factors that influence it. But don’t try to control your thoughts or stop thinking, just put a little distance between yourself and your thought processes. Being able to look at your thoughts objectively is a big first step toward deeper self-awareness. Regular meditation and conscious breathing will enable you to remove what Sri Chinmoy calls, “the cloud of doubt” from your life.

What is doubt? If we examine the word, we see that the word ‘doubt,’ like ‘darkness,’ refers to an absence of something rather than to a thing in itself. Darkness is the absence of light. Doubt is the absence of self-confidence or faith. Sri Chinmoy used to say faith in God and faith in oneself is the same faith. You cannot have faith in God if you lack confidence in yourself. To have faith in the meaning of your life is to have faith in God, regardless of how your mind defines or denies, perceives or fails to perceive, ‘God.’

Our life problem is not to discern between systems of belief, but to establish a deep and abiding confidence in ourselves. Faith-confidence nourishes and empowers; doubt starves and debilitates. Thus, Sri Chinmoy says the true purpose of the mind (like every other organ) is to strengthen and support the life force within us. The mind does this by removing self-doubt from our life.

One of the best health practices for the mind is allow it to relax and become quiet for brief periods of time. Hours of sleep do not provide all the rest the brain needs. The brain never attains a deep state of quietude in sleep. In skilled practitioners, a few minutes of meditation can do what hours of sleep cannot – deeply relax and refresh the mind. Unlike sleep, meditation requires practice but once this discipline has been established, we will realize the many benefits that come from regular meditation. One benefit will be the growth of self-knowledge and self-confidence as the ‘cloud of doubt’ is gradually removed from our lives.

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How to Deal with Irritability

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness…

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“True happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body.” — Sri Aurobindo

Harmony for the Whole Being

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness, a psyche or heart consciousness, a mind consciousness and a soul consciousness. Recognizing these components of oneself can be very useful in our spiritual journey. One such time is when we feel the need to manage our inner life. By ‘managing’ I mean moderating or controlling thoughts, emotions and habitual behavior. A good way to approach the problem of negative habits is to ask ourselves from what consciousness does it arise? We may discover more than one consciousness is involved. For instance, irritability may arise in the physical consciousness due to discomfort of the body, in the vital consciousness due to repressed or over used energies, in the heart due to emotional failings or disappointments, or in the mind because of mental confusion. In the case of irritability, one place we can be sure it does not arise is in the soul consciousness, for the soul is that clear and flawless perception that is beyond human disturbances. It is the soul that recognizes a disturbance as something that needs correcting.

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The Body

If we can identify the source of our irritability we can begin to effectively deal with it. Let us begin with the body consciousness. A common cause of irritability in the body is lethargy. The body is naturally lethargic, and when our lethargy is disturbed irritation arises. The way to control this common problem is to keep the body energized by regular exercise and a variety of different activities. That will minimize stagnation and lethargy in the body consciousness. A regular yoga practice can stabilize and bring a very peaceful and harmonious energy to the body consciousness.

The Vital

Exercise also keeps the vital consciousness fresh and flowing in a positive manner. The vital has a profound influence on both our physical and mental health. Recent research has shown that vigorous exercise may be the most effective medicine known to man, as it prevents or corrects a host of health issues. Exercise neutralizes anger, depression, and other negative energies that send the vital into a downward spiral, where frustration and irritability will be the inevitable result. It is important to understand that irritability is not always the result of outer causes. Vital stagnation and irritation can easily be caused by negative thoughts and emotions or by any unhealthy practice that has become habitual. 

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The Heart

As our vital energy goes, so goes our heart and mind, for they are closely tied to vital influences. The heart may faire a bit better than the mind under a negative influence, for the heart consciousness is more closely connected to the soul. It has an all-important counter-balance to disturbances arising in the lower nature. Still, the heart is not immune to negative influences. To be happy and in communion with others are fundamental desires of the heart. Self-giving is the essence of the heart consciousness. When we give of ourselves to others for the benefit of others, without expectation for self-gain, the heart is both gladdened and strengthened. The heart requires no elaborate medications or procedures, the simplest every day acts are what matter most to the heart.

The Mind

Sri Aurobindo referred to ‘vital-mind’ as the prevailing consciousness of our age. If we look at modern culture, we see ambition and desire gratification framed as the reward for being ‘smart.’ ‘Wisdom’ rarely enters the conversation, as the heart has been bypassed and almost forgotten in the ethic of our age. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, is a tragic mistake that could become fatal for the human race. Wisdom is a function of heart and mind in balance and working together. Ambition and desire are to the mind like sugar to a child. Unfortunately a heartless intelligence lacks both balance and wisdom. The vital-mind consciousness does not want to believe that true life satisfaction requires the mind to be in the service of the heart. To use ones intelligence in the service of selfless love and compassion is the best medicine for the mind. Another is to learn meditation. Meditation puts the vital-mind connection on hold and gives relief from the constant demands and expectations of the vital-mind consciousness. It brings a deeper and wiser perspective to our life.

The Soul

The soul consciousness is pervasive throughout the body, vital, mind and heart, but ironically it is imperceptible to physical awareness. So intangible is the soul, it is sometimes thought of as a ‘witness’ rather than a participant in our life. Spiritual masters, however, have assured us the soul can be realized and that it is the true and proper guide for our being. Even if soul awareness is for the moment beyond our ability, we can increase our awareness of the other four levels of consciousness and we can cultivate health and happiness through that awareness. Proper maintenance of body, vital, heart and mind are as essential to our happiness as happiness is to knowledge of the soul.

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Kirtan and Dance

Just as a person who is extremely happy may spontaneously sing and dance to express their special pleasure…

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Kirtan and Dance are Intertwined

The Bhakti tradition in Hinduism is very clear about dance. Dance is a part of the spiritual experience. Dance is an integral part of the overall Kirtan experience.

“Just as a person who is extremely happy may spontaneously sing and dance to express their special pleasure, in the same way the Supreme Lord performs all actions to express His consciousness, which is perpetually in a state of Supreme Bliss.” ~Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya

When We Dance, We Embody the Supreme State

In the Dvārakā-māhātmya (Skanda-Purana) the importance of dancing before the Deity is stated by Lord Krishna as follows: “A person who is in a jubilant spirit, who feels profound devotional ecstasy while dancing before Me, and who manifests different features of bodily expression can burn away all the accumulated sinful reactions he has stocked up for many, many thousands of years.”

In the same book there is a statement by Narada wherein he asserts, “From the body of any person who claps and dances before the Deity, showing manifestations of ecstasy, all the birds of sinful activities fly away upward.”

Just as by clapping the hands one can cause many birds to fly away, similarly the birds of all sinful activities which are sitting on the body can be made to fly away simply by dancing and clapping before the Deity of Krishna. – Quotes and Commentary from Nectar of Devotion

https://www.amazon.com/Nectar-Devotion-Complete-Science-Bhakti-Yoga/dp/0912776056

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Body, Mind, Spirit Align

Embodied cognition, the theory that the body reveals the nature of the mind can be seen in the following: Consider the mosh-pit verses an intentional, spiritual expression of dance. The former involves chaos with no spatial awareness, no empathy for others and no attempt to mirror or unite with a common awareness. Conversely, dance of a spiritual nature involves complete awareness, resembling a verbal language with vocabulary (dance movements) and grammar (system for combining movements) where each moment becomes a supreme expression of mind/body/spirit Unity.

Karen Pechelis states that the word Bhakti should not be understood as uncritical emotion, but as committed engagement. She adds that, in the concept of Bhakti in Hinduism, the engagement involves a simultaneous tension between emotion and intellection, “emotion to reaffirm the social context and temporal freedom, intellection to ground the experience in a thoughtful, conscious approach”.

~Karen Pechelis (2014), The Embodiment of Bhakti, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195351903, page 3

In any form of meditation the way involves awareness. Meditation is not mindlessness; it’s not emptiness, save that we empty ourselves of the extraneous. We fill our spirit with our Creator. We express our devotion through our bodies, our minds and emotions and we realize the bliss that is the perpetual state of the Supreme. Ecstatic dance becomes a spontaneous expression with a singular platform: Complete, joyful, blissful, unifying awareness.

Consider also the output. When we dance we create vibrations. Just as with everything else, the ‘quality’ of our vibration is our own. Do we wreak havoc in the mosh-pit bringing chaos to the universe? Or do we create beauty and joy by our physical expressions, dedicating them devotionally to the whole? What do we contribute by our dance?

We are Musical Instruments!

Dance is as music is. Each is a language. Each can only be an individual expression (even in a group setting). Each is sublime. When we combine song and dance we open ourselves further to a greater unifying principle. Dance is the letting go of inhibitions so we can more fully express our gratitude, our joy and our freedom.

There’s a fun little saying and it goes like this: ‘When we are old enough to talk, we are old enough to sing. When we are old enough to walk, we are old enough to dance.’

Bring your best dance (and your voice)… and a friend to Kirtan on Thursday nights at 8:30pm. We are made to dance and sing.

Additional reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_dance

Check the schedule here for Kirtan, Meditation, Mindfulness and Pranayama classes.

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Invocation: Call it Forth

Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world…

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Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world, our lives, we must become what we want.

What is an invocation? What does it mean: to invoke? All spiritual traditions have invocation in their practices. How can the act of invocation deepen our spiritual practice and bring more joy and happiness into our lives?

As a Kirtan practitioner we recite, invoke the divine names, set to music. Through this invocation practice we replace the clutter of random mind chatter with a singular thought, a divine thought. We bring our attention and concentration to that thought. Yet at this level of invocation there is still a sense of separation between us and that which we are invoking. The next step is an actual merging with that divinity. We become that. Like a drop of rain falling into the ocean of singularity, we are our invocation. This type of becoming is central to deepening our practices and also in actually manifesting what we want in our lives.

If we want more love… practical applications:

If we want more love in our lives, we must first become more loving. We must manifest that desired quality from within. We must show more love to ourselves… first. If we want more peace in our lives, we must first find more peace in ourselves. If we want more affection, we must become more affectionate… first. It really doesn’t work the other way around. It can’t be demanded. These divine ‘heart qualities’ do not come from outside of us. We can’t buy them. They are within our hearts and are longing to come forth. Invoke them.

“…In My Name.”

In the Bible, Jesus uses the expression, “…in My Name,” many times. Pray in My Name. Gather in My Name, etc. What does He mean by that expression? I believe He means for us to invoke His spirit and become as He became.

The dictionary defines invocation as a calling upon of some agent for assistance. We can expand that definition more spiritually by saying that an invocation is to seek greater connection to the divine: to become One, to merge.

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What would Jesus do?

(This phrase has been used rather commercially by Christian variants but the underlying essence of the question is sound.)

I often ask myself this contemplative, self-reflective question. It helps me to deepen my awareness.

How would Jesus pray or meditate if He were I, in my given situation? Consider this! What would be his thoughts were my immediate circumstances His? I challenge myself to pray as if I am Jesus. I try to meditate with His knowledge, His understanding, His discernment, His compassion and love, His closeness… I pray as I feel He would pray. I try to absorb His perspective. This is what I believe is meant by His expression, “…in My Name.” I invoke the spirit of Jesus to guide me in my meditation of becoming. I try to become Christ-like.

So, when we invoke, the ideal is to become that which we invoke. We can invoke the Supreme or an aspect thereof. We become a divine trait.

Wikipedia categorizes invocation with ‘Self-identification,’ “…the taking on of the qualities being invoked.” Webster’s defines it like empathy; “The feeling that you share and understand the problems or experiences of someone else,” in our case, the Divine. Self-realization might be a more familiar term.

Invocation is also described as a form of possession, where (perhaps) psychologically one’s personality is replaced with that which is invoked. I like to think of this more as a merging, a union, rather than a replacing. Nothing can be replaced, where one thing no longer exists. We transform into our invocation. We reunite with the Whole.

Invocation calls up from within ones-self that which is already there, veiled as it were, the subject of our invocation. Our meditations are designed to thin or strip away the veils of maya, forgetfulness, our delusions so that we can develop a rapport with our invocation, or perhaps ultimately an oneness, a lasting Oneness… we become One in the Name.

We can take our meditations another leap forward by becoming the nature of our invocations.

Happy meditating!

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Inspiration from a Spiritual Retreat

I always return from them feeling refreshed and inspired, and I have asked myself why this is…

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I recently returned from a 2-week spiritual retreat in New York. These retreats were originally run by my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who moved from India to Queens in 1964 and they have continued without interruption ever since. Over the years Sri Chinmoy has attracted thousands of followers and disciples, many of them attend his retreats. I’ve been going quite regularly for the past 35 years and I always return from them feeling refreshed and inspired, and I have asked myself why this is.

Sri Chinmoy

The Teaching

For one thing, it’s always nice to get away from my daily routine. Attending spiritual retreats reinforces three needs, which are fundamental to spiritual growth. The first is to have a teaching to follow. For this, it is not necessary to have a living teacher. My teacher passed way in 2007, but I still find inspiration at our retreats and wisdom in his writings and in the life example he set for his disciples. A spiritual teaching is a code or set of higher values that guide your life. It’s good to keep focused on your higher values and spiritual retreats do just that.

Community

A second fundamental is community. We need similarly inspired companions. When Ananda, Buddha’s relative and close disciple, asked him about the role of friendship in their practice, the Buddha replied that spiritual companionship was the ‘whole of the spiritual life.’ We live in relation to others. If those others are have a like spirit and inspiration, you will run swiftly toward your goal, because spiritual friends will support you in your spiritual practice. Spiritual retreats and yoga retreats offer the experience of spiritual community and one may make lifetime friends there.

Peace Run Friends

Aspiration

The third essential element of spiritual practice is personal effort, or ‘aspiration.’ Aspiration puts our inspiration into practice. Aspiration expands our capacity and our insight in a way that inspiration without effort cannot. Aspiration transforms inspiration into life experience. There is a quote from my teacher that goes something like this, “People are willing to do anything for enlightenment, except work for it.” How sadly true!

Manifest Our Inspiration in Every Circumstance

But how do we put inspiration into practice? This becomes a difficult question if we overlook the countless opportunities every day life presents. We imagine we need special circumstance to manifest our inspiration, when all we have to do is just start loving where there is too little love, encouraging those who are discouraged, giving of ourselves without expectation of reward or return. These kinds of actions consecrate our life and open doors through which our inspirations can spontaneously manifest. We don’t have to create special conditions; we just have to make the effort within our present circumstance. The value of the ‘special circumstance’ of a spiritual retreat is that it reminds us we have what it takes to manifest our inspiration in every circumstance.

Find your Teaching

One perspective on the spiritual life is that it is just perfecting these three fundamentals: our devotion for understanding and following a dharma (teaching), of harmonizing with a community of inspired persons, and of successfully managing our energies so as to maximize our aspiration and inspiration. To jump start your spiritual journey, here are some suggestions: Look for the teaching or teacher that deeply touches your heart. It is not to agree or to like, so much as to fall in love with the teacher’s soul, his or her inner sincerity. If you have a teacher then you have a teaching. Without the teacher, seek the teaching that most inspires your heart, then do your best to understand and follow.

Find Community

Finding a community that resonates with you may be a bit more daunting. Before I discovered the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I engaged about ten different spiritual paths, some like Christianity, quite extensively. First efforts are not always successful – ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ – If you keep on seeking. Don’t give up! Continue seeking and let your deep heart decide the matter. The mind is enamored by first this and then that philosophy. It likes excitement and charisma. These ‘shiny’ things may prove to be unreliable.

Cultivating Personal Effort

As for cultivating personal effort, that follows naturally from having a goal in life. Of course, we have countless ‘goals’ that are usually just momentary desires. A goal that will increase your life energy and make every effort a joy will arise only from a truly spiritual inspiration. You will know it when you feel it, for it will strike your heart and resonate with a tone that is ‘perfect pitch.’ Until then, get to know your heart more intimately. Meditate and don’t wait for an epic inspiration, work on the everyday variety. Giving value to small inspirations will cause great inspirations to seek you out.

Giving value to small inspirations will cause great inspirations to seek you out.

Cultivate these three fundamental principles: Follow a teaching, practice within a community and everyday make an honest and sincere effort. Do these things to uphold your spiritual practice and your practice lift you to heights you did not think possible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Devotion and our Existence

When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion…

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When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion to our Creator. Devotion might be the supreme aspect of our meditation practice. There’s a longing. We want to experience our existence fully. We work towards a Oneness. We strive devotedly, lovingly, longingly to be nearer to our Creator.

Creator is an ineffable concept. So each of us will consider the concept in our own way. But just like a parent/child relationship, we have a child relationship to that Creator. And we want that relationship, even if we don’t realize it. We want that love. We long for it.

Devote yourself to your practice

As I have said before, I practice (meditate) first thing in the morning. In my first waking moments my thoughts are of my practice. I’m drawn to it. I want that closeness; I build and nurture that relationship out of love for my life, my experience and my place in the grander scheme. I devote my practice to my loving Parent. I give thanks. I grow love.

Life is a miracle!

Devotion to this concept is perhaps only possible when we set aside our limited physical selves and recognize our relationship in the bigger picture. We are a part of Creation. We are able to view the past and see into the future more precisely than at any time in recorded history. And yet we often feel an emptiness with this greater knowledge. It seems that the deeper we explore our physicality, the further we move away from our true source.

Tom

Consider sitting quietly with your beloved, just holding each other. No other intentions or activities; just BEING together, becoming as one. Consider wanting that closeness daily, being fully in love, without reservation, without expectation, without condition, completely absorbed in the devotion. Now, consider that relationship experience with your beloved Creator. We have to make this happen. We must sit together, wrapped in each-others arms… Our separateness conditioning continually turns our attentions away from our true oneness-self. Devotion, love takes resolve. It requires practice. It’s easy to be separate…

Uncertainty?

Consider the very nature of the universe.

There is a concept in physics called the ‘uncertainty principle.’ Simply put, it means that when you observe something in motion (everything is in motion), the more closely you observe the objects position, the less you will know about the objects speed and visa versa. But you can never know exactly both.

The science behind the concept is deep and permeates the entirety of physics. Philosophically speaking, the idea can relate to our concept of duality. Despite the advance of our instruments and our ability to closely observe, we still have no cut and dry explanation of the nature of our universe or why we are in it. There is an uncertainty. It might be said that the universe both is and isn’t. It seems to me that the more closely we observe the universe, rather than disproving Creator, Creator simply gets bigger. Love grows!

Uniting the dual qualities is a fantastic spiritual (and mental) challenge. On a physical science basis I will never understand the math. But I can relate to the concept. We are separate from AND also connected to our Creator. Devote yourself to the recognition of this miracle-Oneness. Devote yourself to your practice. Develop certainty.

Check the schedule for Meditation, Kirtan, Mindfulness and Pranayama classes offered each week at Pilgrimage of the Heart.

Join me at Kirtan on Thursday’s at 8:30pm

Tom

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Mantra, Sound and Music

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music…

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Sound Life, Sound Existence

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music. At every moment we are surrounded by sound. It fills our ears and vibrates against and within our bodies. It comes from other human beings; it comes from animals and insects, from rivers and machines. From the six directions it manifests in wind and water, fire and earth. Our ears are filled at every moment with the music of existence and the mantra of being – but do we listen? Do we truly listen?

A koan is a Zen riddle or question that has, or seems to have, no answer. There is a famous koan: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” In other words, if not heard, can sound be said to exist?” The question can be extended to all phenomena: If unperceived, can anything be said to exist?” It can even be extended to our awareness of life: “If I fail to perceive the music that surrounds me, do I really exist?”

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When the earth’s music moves us deeply, it is because we have heard in it something more than a noise. A mother hears her baby cry in the night… is it just a sound? No, to that mother it her very own life crying out voice of her child. Love, passion, joy and sorrow, consciousness and delight are all present in life and in life a constant symphony. We know this, but do we really hear it this way, when we walk down a city street or listen to a friend? Do you hear your life in the music of this world?

Music, sound and mantra can be employed in our spiritual practice to develop and expand our awareness. It has been so used for thousands of years. When our awareness is deepened we can become intimate with the inmost consciousness of our being. In that being we discover we really do exist and that there is not the thinnest membrane between ourselves and the universe! Now close your eyes and listen to the sound of these Tibetan bells. Listen with your whole awareness to the perfectly clear presence within the sound. Listen to it as it fills the room. Listen to the presence of sound as it slowly fades away. When you are listening, think of nothing else but listening, let the sound fill you as it does the room. As it fills you, it fills infinity, the earth and sky, the heavens and the cosmos beyond, but who is listening?

AUM Life, AUM Existence

We are not always fortunate enough to have Tibetan bells or a beautiful instrument to listen to… Do you believe that? You should never believe that, because you are the most beautiful instrument in the entire universe and its most celestial tone is always vibrating within you. This tone-sound is the mantra AUM. You are the manifestation of this mantra; you are nothing but the celestial sound AUM.

bali-hut

Now watch and listen to the video of “AUM” chanting. Now, chant with the video or on your own. Listen to the sacred sound of your own being. When the first vibration of AUM begins to form within us, we experience our being as it originally was coming into being. As the sound of AUM rises to its full pitch, we will feel our existence as fully established in the world. When we feel the sound of AUM fade to silence, we will feel ourselves fading, fading into the unmanifest and intangible root of our eternal being – the perfect silence that abides in the core of AUM. This is the high and wide, the deep and universal, seed sound of our existence. In truth all sounds are but an echo of AUM, all beings but the physical manifestation of AUM.

We can end our chanting, but we are always vibrating with the energy of AUM at a subtle level. Never stop listening to the music of your inmost existence. If you hear AUM within yourself, you will become refreshed, you will recover your clarity of mind, peace and harmony will returned to you, and a new confidence will magically energize your life. This is the power of AUM, the beauty of AUM, the divinity of AUM, and it is your power, your beauty and your divinity as well, for you are nothing but the celestial music of AUM manifesting in this world.

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The Master Key

It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact…

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It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact, ninety-nine times out of a hundred it might be regarded as a fool’s statement, akin to claiming enlightenment. It seems ridiculous that someone might have the Master Key to the ineffable.

I found such a claim to The Master Key

It comes from what I consider to be a reliable and well-considered source, Manly P. Hall.

Our task as yogis, as humans, is to put effort into mindful consideration. We meditate. We slow our busy, frantic activities in our outer world and delve into our inner world. We seek our place in the universe. As we progress, we recognize the concepts of Unity and diversity of Principles and particulars, of Generals and personalities. And this is key: we begin to realize that men come and go, live and die… but Man, the Principle continue in the universe and even beyond, by evidence of Man’s presence here and now as a part of eternity. Eternity is wholeness. We always were and we always will be.

Mistaking particulars as Principles

We have great tendency to equate or elevate particulars to the status of Principles, a fallacy. Religion is an obvious example. Each claims supremacy over the others and yet each teaches the same thing. St. Paul understood it perfectly: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect (Unity) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Cor. XIII: 9-10) The Christian church would have that ultimate unification of mankind under it’s own banner, unmindful that it is itself a particular, and can only be sustained until “that which is perfect is come.” Unity, Wholeness is without parts.

Manly P. Hall

What is the Master Key, then?

The key is the aligning of our consciousness, by establishing our mind in wholes, in unities, rather than particulars. This is The Master Key!

“…the establishment of the mind in wholes (unities) is essential to right thinking, and is the master key to the rational cognizance of the order and sequence of parts…” — Manly P. Hall

As long as man considers himself an individual, he is mortal. The key is the mindful consideration of Unity.

Excerpted quotations from the volume, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, Chapter 12, by Manly P. Hall.

I highly recommend the above book and also Hall’s marvelous volume, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, published by The Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles.

Check the schedule for times and locations of meditation, philosophy, mindfulness, pranayama and Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.

 

 

 

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Taking Risks: How A Good Support System Allowed Me To Open My Own Yoga Business

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)…

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by Brentan Schellenbach

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)

From the moment I walked in the doors I always felt at home. I quickly fell in love with every yoga class and every teacher. I absorbed with fascination everything my teacher training mentors brought me. I started meditating with Sujantra, going to philosophy class and joined the kirtan band (aka yoga music) on Thursday nights. It was yoga studio heaven for me.

The Big Move

But alas, I was 22 and adventure was calling—it was time for me to go beyond my comfort zone and move to Chicago.

When I moved, I was eager to explore the yoga studios and find what I expected to be POTH equivalents in the Midwest.

By my third year living in the city, I was working as a yoga teacher full time—teaching 25 weekly classes at nine different locations around the city. Some studios had massive infrastructure and were well-oiled machines, others were smaller boutique studios run by a one-man-band owner-manager-lead teacher.

But there was still no Pilgrimage. Now I’m sure many students have found their yoga home in Chicago—their cherished studio that claims all their love and loyalty and affection—but it just wasn’t there for me.

But what was I to do? I had already invested three years in Chicago building relationships with students and studios, and I was finally paying my bills with money I earned teaching yoga.

Additionally, I had a wonderful musical partner named Oli, who I met as a surrogate for Sujantra’s kirtan band that I was missing in San Diego. Not only had he and I written and recorded our own kirtan album, but we had also fallen in love—a love that was founded on self-inquiry, creative expression and philosophical pondering.

Me and Oli

Me and Oli, one of our many dinner-time toasts after a long day of one of our many projects.

Shortly after Oli and I started our romantic relationship, he started coming with me to my evening classes. Sometimes we would stay after class with students deep in conversation about yoga and life and God. But there was still a sense that something was missing—a community, a home, a family. We wanted something more than the fragmented moments before and after yoga class—we wanted friends and teachers who infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

Fermata Yoga Center

This is why we opened our own yoga studio in Chicago.

As first-time business owners, we had a lot to learn. We recruited all the help we could find, including Sujantra, who helped us remotely establish our metrics for evaluation and success. We learned the simplest of things, like what it means to rent space commercially, or develop a relationship as a business entity with other businesses. We learned about balancing our creative ambitions with the needs of the market, how to advertise, how to represent the business publicly.

In a lot of ways, Fermata Yoga Center was a success. After two years we were on a steady upward sales trajectory (and en-route to make a profit in our third year), our word-of-mouth had kicked in and was yielding new students every day, and our operational processes were running smoothly.

But there were still a few problems. Neither of us had really grown to love the city—we had tried even to the point of opening our own business, but it still didn’t feel like home. We were also meeting many traveling yoga students at the studio from all over the country who confided, “If only your studio was in my town, I would come everyday.”

Saturday morning live-music class

Saturday morning live-music class at the studio. Oli played ambient guitar and his looping machine while I taught a slow flow class. Our most popular class on the schedule by far!

We felt so silly owning a business in a place we didn’t really want to live and only be able to offer our services to those who magically lived in a four-mile radius from the studio.

We had some big decisions to make.

After two years, we decided to close the studio. The heartbreak was palpable for everyone involved, but we wanted to move back to California (closer to what I still consider my home). We also wanted to move our business online so that budget, time and distance was no longer a factor in whether people could practice with us.

And that’s where we are now.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We just launched the new leg of our business, called Yoga In Your Living Room, which is an online yoga platform that brings high-quality yoga into students’ homes. The site features a Free Videos section, updated regularly, which is full of diverse content. It also features an annual membership that unlocks what we call Premium Videos, which are specialized classes filmed on location that target more specific body and mind goals. And because we know how important it is for students to feel listened to and connected to their yoga teachers and each other, we’ve incorporated multiple communication platforms in the site (blog, commenting, social media) for friendships to emerge and flourish.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We are excited to offer this to our Chicago students as an extension of the yoga studio they fell in love with and to grow our client base all over the world. We’re looking forward to offering more diverse products like teacher trainings; retreats; clinical yoga programs for depression, anxiety, PTSD; and meditational therapies.

Most of all we are excited to be home in California, to settle our roots and be present for the ever-changing Now.

I am so thankful for my unparalleled education at Pilgrimage of the Heart, which inspires me to keep practicing, learning and growing as a yoga teacher and student. And I’m also thankful for the community—for Sujantra, Nikole, Linda and all the staff and students—this is the support that makes me feel comfortable taking risks, becoming independent and walking my own sometimes terrifying path in life.

I am blessed and I am home.

Brentan

 

 

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Stepping Out of Our Unproductive Patterns with Meditation

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them…

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merry-go-round

Photo by Wonderlane, License.

 “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”—Albert Einstein

Meditation Lifts Us Out of Mental Patterns

This quote from Albert Einstein sums up the practice of meditation. We often get trapped on a merry-go-round of emotional or mental patterns. How do we use our mind and awareness to lift us out of our patterns?

It’s a challenge that I face every morning. I usually make some tea before I meditate, stretch a little bit, then I go sit down where I practice meditation and as soon as I sit down I start to think about all the things I am going to have to do that day. My mind automatically goes to thinking, projecting ahead, looking at issues and thinking of different approaches to challenges I face. There are times when 10-15 minutes go by and, although my intention was to practice concentration and meditation, I realize I have just been lost in thoughts. I am just going around and around in the same thinking patterns.

The Deluge of Thoughts

That’s when I realize I need to do something different. I need to do something other than focus on my own mind in order to pull me out of the deluge of thoughts. That is when I pick up a book of my teacher’s writings and start to read poems that he wrote. My teacher embarked on a project to write 77,000 poems and he passed away just as he had finished 50,000 in this series. They are short aphorisms or phrases that have a lot of content to them. They are nice strong statements about life challenges, spirituality, meditation, inner growth, the mind and the heart. I start to read those and after several of the poems I start to get out of my patterns and lift up to a higher dimension. Once I’m there, then I can begin my meditation.

Short Songs and Mantras

Another technique I use is singing. I either sing out load or mentally. At musical meditation each week we teach and practice short songs and mantras that are great for meditation.

candle

Another thing I often do if I find I am just drifting around in thought is a candle meditation. I have a candle that I light when I meditate and if I realize I am just going around and around in thought I will hold my eyes on the candle. This is a really effective way to calm the mind and halt thinking. Our eyes automatically move as we think but if you hold your eyes still, it’s a way to physically hold your mind. By concentrating on one thing it forces my mind to be still. Then I chant OM out loud so I can hear myself and bring my mind fully into the practice.

Challenges With My Mind Racing

Since we all have the same basic mental structure, I believe that everyone has to deal with something akin to my own difficulties in quieting the mind. You want to be sure that wherever you are sitting and practicing your meditation that you have a nice candle or flower you can use for visual concentration. It also is beneficial to read the writings from an illumined teacher so you can concentrate on writings that are sure to inspire and uplift your awareness. I have practiced meditation for over 35 years yet still daily face challenges with my mind racing. The difference between 35 years ago and now is that I now know I can pull out of those mental patterns, whereas 35 years ago I had no idea that there was a way out of my own thought patterns.

Opening Your Heart

Rising out of your patterns can also mean opening your heart or going into deeper transformative emotions such as compassion, gratitude and unconditional love.

In the practice of meditation it is important to have enough humility to reach out for that thread or lifeline that can lift you up, whether it’s a mantra, beautiful music, a candle or a flower. It’s imperative to realize that the same state of mind you’re in is not the state of mind that can move to a higher consciousness. You have to do something or allow something to happen to your mind by focusing on the mantra or a phrase or listening to music and to that adding a level of intensity as if your life depended on it.

desert_creek

Each time you move into that higher consciousness, assimilate the experience; impress it upon your awareness so you can remember what it feels like to be in an elevated mood. This will help you return there next time.

—Sujantra

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Philosophy Podcast E26: Karma

Explore the concept of Karma and how to negate ‘Bad Karma.’…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 26: Explore the concept of Karma and how to negate ‘Bad Karma.’

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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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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It…

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It. Bhakti is one of the four major aspects of the yoga path, the others being Jhana spiritual self-study, Karma, the yoga of (selfless) service, and Raja or Royal Yoga the mystical reunion with the Creator thru meditation practices and lifestyle. All are paths to enlightenment (see the Bhagavad Gita (I personally recommend the Arnold translation). These four traditions have each their own chapters. Any or all of these paths are available to the practitioner.

Pilgrimage Audience

Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Kirtan is a legitimate and valid part of the Bhakti tradition. It is a chanting, devotional practice centered around the singing of the Names of the Creator. As a practice it reminds us of our origin and ‘Maker.’ The distractions of our lives often will veer us away from higher truth and firmly root us in a purely physical mindset. Kirtan elevates us to the more spiritual realm as we sing and chant devotions to our Creator. It reminds and motivates us to look more frequently at the subtleties of our existence. It’s truly an avenue to a higher mindset.

I’ve looked at the demographic of our Kirtan practice. I find it interesting that most of our participants do not practice yoga (Hatha, Asana, etc.) nor are they members of the Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio. We have attracted a large following from outside, some of who have been attending regularly for years, which to me is fantastic. I am inspired by the high level of awareness of our participants and I am committed to bringing relevance and meaning to our practice for them.

But I also find it interesting that we draw less that 1% of the members of our studio to our Kirtan practice on any given week. That’s a little troubling. Not that I am complaining… our Kirtan is in the top 10% of all classes attended at Pilgrimage and has been for years! I just wonder why our members don’t take greater advantage of this incredible offering.

A few years ago an anonymous, lovely soul posted this comment about her first Kirtan experience. It brings a tear of joy to my eyes that we can bring such a joyous and meaningful experience to someone from our humble practice. Truly, my hope is to have Kirtan generate this type of experience for all who attend, every week. So I repost this in hopes that I might motivate our members to join with us. We want you. We need you. We are here for you! Kirtan is a heart-opening experience… and an eye-opener, too. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts!

Join us on Thursdays at 8:30pm in the East Room.

“I will never forget my first week at Pilgrimage of the Heart. I was immersing myself in yoga – I took a week off work and had a “stay-cation”. . . practiced 2-3 times a day, meditated, hiked; basically created my own little yoga retreat on the cheap. Of course I had to try out the Thursday night yoga philosophy class and musical meditation double header. What I learned that night has been a foundation for many of the decisions I have made over the past two years.

I couldn’t even tell you exactly what ancient text we were reading from in the philosophy discussion. However, the main point being made was this . . . Life (or the universe, or God — put in your entity of choice) will ALWAYS give you what you ask for. However, many times it will be presented to you in a way you don’t recognize at first, and often in a form which is scary. So, do you run away from what you want because it scares you, or do you accept what life/the universe/God is offering?

This idea stuck with me as I shuffled my way into the east room for music meditation. I was expecting an hour of gentle music as I breathed in inner silence. Ha! Instead, I got an hour of chanting. Drums, harmoniums, a guitar? It was fantastic. And kind of weird. A whole room full of people shaking noisemakers and chanting “Hare Krishna!” This was pretty far outside my comfort zone. I mean, come on. . . what would all the non-yoga people in my life think if they saw me now? And then it hit me. I had been looking for a place to sing for a long time. I love to sing. I mean, this is a love the runs deep to the core of my being. It’s a visceral love that I’ve felt my whole life. For a while I had toyed with the idea of joining a church choir, even though I don’t follow any particular religion, just to sing with a group. And there I was. Singing with a group. I felt a joy I hadn’t experienced in years. And it was scary.

I almost cried when I realized how immediately this lesson was being presented to me. It was a big moment. I decided then and there that I would keep going to music meditation. I have to keep singing, and I also have to investigate why I was so scared of such an amazing group of people. Why was I so concerned with what others thought? Where had I picked up all of these judgments, and why the heck would I keep holding on to them?

That lesson has come back to me many times, guiding me to make decisions that have clearly changed my life. Each time I actively choose to take what life has to offer, no matter what it looks like, I find myself deeply grateful for the way things unfold. It’s funny how sometimes we think life just isn’t working out the way we want it to, but it always seems to end up exactly how it should be.”

— Author unknown

 

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build…

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build a platform of stability, where gratitude and compassion can be the grounding sources of our causalities.

I’ve been thinking about Karma and it’s meaning. In simple terms, Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our causes (thought, word, deed) have effects on others (positively or negatively). Those causes we create are ‘recorded’ on our personal ledgers, so to speak, and we are responsible for the effects.

What we do after we create a cause is important.

But Karma should not be regarded only by the effect our causes have on others. More importantly perhaps, karma should be regarded as the effect our causes have on ourselves. Common references to this concept include: ‘An eye for an eye,’ ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword,’ ‘What goes around comes around.’

Dominos

I’ve developed a personal mantra:

The only thing in the entire universe that truly matters is my own personal ledger.

Karma is what we have done to ourselves. Karma is ‘Life-Lesson’. Every day we have to deal with the effects created by others. How we deal is our own. Our response creates good or bad Karma for ourselves. But the causality belongs to someone else, in this case.

But when we create a ‘cause’ the responsibility is all on us. It goes on our ledger.
(Our response to the effects of other’s causalities goes on our ledger, too.) Our ledger contains our causes and our response to causes created by others.

Wayne Dyer Quote

50,000 years from now the only thing that will have mattered is our own life’s record. Everyone that we have ever helped or hurt will be dead. Nothing will have mattered to anyone. Only your own life’s record will matter. And it only matters to you.

What’s on your ledger?

Is your record black… or red… or is it the purity of white? I’ve found that in this life there are but a few lines, which once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. We have the capacity to fix our wrongs. We can correct the karmic influence. We can rewrite our ledger… mostly. We can take responsibility. We can do better. We can learn and grow. We can create the causality of repair. We can move forward in a positive, compassionate manner from this point forward, while we work on our past discrepancies. We can apologize. We can forgive… We can forgive ourselves!

It can be rightfully said that we are in control of our life experiences. We have the capacity to choose: to choose to create with compassion and gratitude and to respond with compassion and gratitude. No one can influence our choice. It’s up to us. We may find ourselves in less than desirable circumstances; circumstance beyond our control. But how we respond affects our karma, our ledger.

I try to consciously remember the truly miraculous nature of life. We are so distracted by the attraction to form, to stuff. We literally identify ourselves with our possessions, rather than our heart, the place where discernment lives. Our lives are true miracles. We’ve lost sight of the miracle. We are more than just the memory of our bygone possessions. We are miracles beyond the capacity of our language to define. Life is a miracle! It’s not commonplace! We are still the ONLY life that we have positively identified in the universe (conspiracy theories, not withstanding). That realization should generate a degree of gratitude. In fact,

“My own gratitude heart is ALL that matters.” —Sri Chinmoy

Coming from a place of gratitude and compassion for our miracle-life enables us to create peaceful, loving causes. Gratitude enables us to respond positively even to negative causality. And it gives us the insight to go within ourselves and correct our causal mistakes.

Open your ledger. Look carefully… and be constantly aware…

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

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The Diaphragm: A Link the Conscious and the Subconscious

Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness…

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Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness and control of this subtle correspondence. This exercise can be utilized during a variety of meditation practices.

Here is another link in the chain.

 Consider the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a muscle and a membrane, which separates the lower abdominal region of our bodies (intestines, kidneys, liver, etc.) from the upper thoracic region, the area with our heart and lungs. The diaphragm is the main motor mechanism of the breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

Simply, when we inhale the diaphragm moves downward, decreasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside air pressure. It creates a vacuum: air rushes in.

When we exhale the diaphragm moves upward, putting pressure on the lungs; increasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside. Air rushes out.

And so, as you know, our subconscious, autonomics control the diaphragm… mostly. When we control our breathing through our practices we are consciously taking control of our subconscious diaphragm. The idea is to be able to recognize and feel the diaphragm as the mechanism you are controlling.

yoga_breath_lg

 

Everything you do with your breath centers around the diaphragm.

And to me, here’s the cool part: When we consciously recognize the diaphragm as we meditate and control it, the diaphragm becomes a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious: a very powerful meditation! It’s like having one foot in each world.

Sit and breathe. Feel your heartbeat. Then add the diaphragm link. Connect your conscious and subconscious. This creates an atmosphere of mindfulness which permeates into your overall life experience. And that’s what we want: More mindful, more of the time.

Sit down. Be still. Take a deep breath and feel your diaphragm descend!

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happy breath, one and all!

Tom

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The Foundation is Breath and Heart

Let’s develop breath/heart awareness!…

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With each and every breath I live on my heart’s God-altar.” — Sri Chinmoy

 

Let’s develop breath/heart awareness!

We take fore granted this thing called breath. We inhale and exhale a substance called air. The mechanics of this breath process are almost entirely autonomic: controlled by the subconscious. In fact, until we slow down, stop and direct our awareness directly at our breath, we don’t even know we are doing it.

Here is an exercise that helps focus our awareness, our consciousness, on our breath and heart. You don’t have to be a yogi for this to work for you. Very briefly:

As you sit, bring your attention to your breath. Notice yourself breathing. Let your body breath… FEEL it. Then, consciously slow your breath down a bit: Breathe a little more deeply, exhale a little more fully, don’t strain… take control of your breath process. Direct your consciousness, your awareness on your breath. Stay focused. Stay steady.

igor

Then when you are ready, inhale nicely and hold your breath… don’t strain, try and feel your heartbeat. You might have to do this a few times. Once you get a feel for your heartbeat by holding your breath, begin your controlled breathing again as you continue to feel your pulse. Feel both. Stay focused!

As you continue to breathe, feel your pulse. Notice that you can feel it radiating out from your heart to your extremities. Feel your pulse in your belly, under your arms, in your hands, your legs, your feet. Then feel your pulse down to the cellular level. Every cell, every corpuscle pulsates. Feel it!

This technique is useful in all of the above practices. I wrote about it very briefly. Take your time. Slow down. To feel this subtle process requires stillness… and repetition. Inevitably, you will be able to feel the link between heart and breath, continuously. Have patience, my friends and practice.

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happiness, one and all!

Tom

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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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Philosophy Podcast E25: Evolution And Transformation

Exploring imagery and circumstances for personal growth…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 25: Exploring imagery and circumstances for personal growth.

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Meditation Podcast E26: Evolution And Transformation

Meditation techniques for change and personal growth…

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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 26: Meditation techniques for change and personal growth.

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Philosophy Podcast E24: Yoga Sutras I : 12 – 16

Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 24: The Yoga Sutras I : 12- 16: Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind.

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Philosophy Podcast E23: The Power of Surrender

Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s 1974 poem about the power of surrender…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 23: Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s 1974 poem about the power of surrender.

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Meditation Podcast E25: Surrender

Enjoy these techniques to open your heart and awareness to the vast Universe. Includes music from Jhallika…

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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 25: Enjoy these techniques to open your heart and awareness to the vast Universe. Includes music from Jhallika.

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Philosophy Podcast E22: Yoga Sutras I 12 – 15

Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 22: Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 3

Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well…

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The Yoga Dana Foundation

Sujantra: Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well.

Let’s talk about your foundation. We’ve graduated about 150 yoga teachers from our studio here in San Diego and for me, it’s so inspiring to see people excited and inspired to teach in studios or to take their teaching out into the world. We have a recent graduate who has MS and she teaches yoga to MS patients. You have the Dana Foundation. Can you tell us about that?

Yoga Dana

Richard: We started out as the California Yoga Teachers Association, a non-profit organization that owned Yoga Journal. The Board of Directors had a hand in running the magazine. Eventually Yoga Journal got into a little bit of financial trouble so we sold it to a man named John Abbott, who was the white knight in shining armor that came in and saved Yoga Journal. He’s done quite a nice job over the years to build it up while keeping it true to the yoga tradition. Then he sold it. The California Yoga Teachers Association had kept a percentage of Yoga Journal so when John sold it we would get some money as well. We invested that money and we now have money to give away every year. The IRS tells us we have to give this money away. We have an application on our website for towns in the Bay Area. We’ve given money to cerebral palsy center and the Piedmont yoga community, the organization that supports teaching to disabled students and cancer survivors, we’re giving money to a gentleman that works at San Quentin prison to teach yoga there, and a Parkinson’s yoga class that I used to teach but have since turned it over to a friend. We’re supporting teachers who teach in prisons, jails, low-income, homeless, disabled, abused teenagers, you name it and we’ve given money to these organizations.

PYO

Sujantra: Wow, that sounds like fantastic work and you’re touching thousands of people a year.

Richard: I don’t know about thousands, but certainly hundreds! The teachers go out and work with a number of community health centers, elementary schools. We have a program that is teaching yoga in San Francisco high schools.

Sujantra: Congratulations, that’s amazing.

Richard: We’ve been doing this for over ten years and we’ve given away over $1 million.

Sujantra: That’s what the world needs more of.

Richard: We were talking in our last meeting about trying to find ways to promote this movement and make it more nationwide. Modern yoga, which is very different than old yoga, is very inclusive. Old yoga was very exclusive. Our goal is to bring in as many people as we can no matter their physical state or financial situation.

Happy Yogis

They All Go Home a Little Happier

Sujantra: You mention the whole range of underserved populations, yet they are all benefitting from the practice of yoga. How can yoga help someone who is homeless, imprisoned?

Richard: It’s different benefits for different groups, I’d say. For instance, people with Parkinson’s, yoga helps alleviate the symptoms. It’s not a cure-all for Parkinson’s but they all go home a little happier than when they came in. People in prisons or juvenile hall they learn to deal with their emotions a little bit better. Some of the people in health centers do benefit from some of the health benefits of yoga so it really depends on what the population is.

Sujantra: One of the things I notice here at our studio is watching the students who have been coming for a month or two and you can observe their breathing is calmer, their posture is better and that just flows into any problems they’re dealing with. It sounds like you were right there at the ground floor when Yoga Journal was happening.

The Potential of Yoga

Richard: Yoga Journal was started in 1975 by my friend, Judith Lasater. I came on the board of California Yoga Teachers Association in 1990 so I wasn’t exactly on the ground floor.

Sujantra: Okay. But you’ve seen the growth of yoga and I’m wondering what you see happening in yoga over the next ten or fifteen or twenty years. What do you think the potential is?

Richard: The potential is enormous but it depends on how the people of this country direct it. I think there are two streams. There’s an exercise stream which is perfectly fine, I have no objection to that. It just makes people healthier physically which has a precedent in traditional yoga. There’s a text saying that if you do this practice your hair will be black again, your belly will be flat, you’ll…

Sujantra: Be as strong as an elephant.

Elephant

By Mister-E (Angry elephant ears) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard: Right. I don’t remember which book it’s in but it states that if you look like Kama and you’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex. (Laughs.) That didn’t work with me, but…(laughs). Hopefully there’s another stream that I see with people becoming more. The yoga in this country is in its early stages. We usually credit Vivekananda for bringing yoga to this country in 1893 but that’s just not really true. He brought a form of meditation. Hatha Yoga didn’t really come and get established until the late 1940s when Indra Devi came and opened a studio in Hollywood. So basically, we’ve had yoga in this country for 60-70 years which in relation to the 2500 years in India, it’s a blink of an eye.   We are the yoga babies right now lying in our crib wiggling our fingers and toes. The people who are teachers now, and the students who are coming through these yoga trainings, have a huge responsibility and will to a large extent help determine the course of yoga in this country and in the West. We will have to see what they do. Hatha Yoga is incomplete right now. It had to be altered in certain ways to make it more accessible to a mass audience and I think there are some things that are missing in the practice that need to be added to it to make it a more transformative practice. What those things are, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s something that everybody that’s becoming a teacher right now needs to think about.

Sujantra: One thing I see in our teachers is how they incorporate meditation, pranayama, the yamas and the niyamas in their own classes. Even when people are just coming for the purely physical. The student body is becoming more aware of the other dimensions.

Richard: I hope to say one thing that the yoga sutras is such a widely read book that there is a misconception that there are only five yamas. There are actually thirty or forty yamas, including compassion and bravery and things like that. I think there should be a greater awareness of those other yamas more than just truthfulness and non-harming.

Yoga FAQs

Sujantra: You’re working on a new book, “Yoga FAQs.” Is that something you’re going to touch on?

Richard: I’m really feeling bad about taking so long to complete this book. (Chuckles.) I’ve given Shambhala every opportunity to dump me. (Laughs.)

Sujantra: How long have you been at it?

Richard: I’m not quite sure, but more than a year that’s for sure. It feels like a long time. They’ve given me several extensions. They’ve been very generous. They really want this book written. I’m plugging away. I’m sitting here at the computer right now and was working on it this morning before you called. This is a book of questions about yoga. There’s a chapter in there about the sutras, hatha yoga, Sanskrit, modern yoga and more. I’m plugging away, let’s just say that.

Sujantra: On behalf of all the other yogis out there, I want to say thank you for everything you do to spread yoga, share it with others and help to keep yoga on track in America.

Richard: Thank you. It’s been very nice to talk with you.

Sujantra: Thank you so much for joining us. To all our listeners out there, I encourage you to read Richard’s books and if you want more information on the Yoga Dana Foundation you can find it at www.yogadanafoundation.com and also on our website www.pyo.yoga in the resources section. Thank you again, Richard, I really appreciate your time.

Richard: Thank you very much.

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Philosophy Podcast E21: A Delight Beyond Pleasure

Exploring the philosophy of Sat-Chit-Ananda…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 21: Exploring the philosophy of Sat-Chit-Ananda.

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Interviews Podcast E11: Jodi Komitor

Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 11: Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 2

In looking at your books, you have so many different exercises and types of pranayama…

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The Authentic Breath

Sujantra: In looking at your books, you have so many different exercises and types of pranayama and yet at this time in your own practice you now mostly observe your breath.

Richard: Yes. That’s exactly right. I’ve come all around, full circle. I’m back to the beginning again. I think it’s important to establish what I call the authentic breath. Parkinson’s has an effect on breathing too. I don’t know what the word is, but it shortens you in the front of the torso so it makes full deep breathing difficult. So I use my breath as a way to pry open the front of my chest. I am trying to pry things open a bit more by using the breath.

Sujantra: You use the term “authentic” which makes me think of rather than using an outer state, you use an inner state.

Richard: Well, it’s breathing that has a minimum of resistance and effort. A lot of my students have restricted breathing in one way or another whether it’s because of posture, tension and other things too. Before you start a pranayama practice you have to let go of a lot of those obstacles to breathing.

PYO

Sujantra: In my meditation classes here in San Diego, I teach that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined.

Richard: Yes, of course.

Sujantra: When you say  the restricted breath it makes me think that maybe these restrictions could be mental or emotional.

Richard: Yes, there are all kinds of restrictions nowadays.

Sujantra: In your students, you see the restrictions in their breath and by helping them clear their breath you are helping them clear other things that you probably can’t even see.

Richard: Right. Sometimes they don’t want to be cleared (laughs). There is resistance and sometimes it gets pretty difficult for some students. The body holds emotions. When the breath triggers some of those emotions to the surface there can be some very unpleasant experiences. You have to be very careful how you teach breathing. I don’t think a lot of people understand the transformational power of the breath.

Deepen Their Pranayama Practice

Sujantra: If someone is going to asana classes and they’re enjoying some of the simpler pranayama practices, how do you recommend they deepen their pranayama practice without crossing that line?

Pranayama

Richard: Well, you have to watch yourself very carefully when you breathe. You have to make sure your emotional state is not being disrupted. In the old books, they say your mind should be sattvic before you even begin a pranayama practice.

Sujantra: For our listeners, sattvic means…

Richard: Clear, calm, quiet. You have to be very careful when doing pranayama practice. You don’t push yourself beyond reasonable limits. You can push yourself in an asana class if you want to touch your toes or whatever you want to do. Pushing yourself in pranayama is certainly a bad idea because it can bring up some very unpleasant experiences. You have to watch yourself. Over time if you have a bad day, you can just turn the page after that. But if you continue to have bad days over and over and over, then that’s something deeper and you should talk to a teacher about that.

Sujantra: I see. In terms of your pranayama practice, if you have one bad day then that’s okay, but if it occurs time and time again, then that could indicate something and you should speak to your teacher about that.

Richard: Right. Over time if your practice isn’t feeding you, making you happy, then there’s something wrong and you need to figure out what that is rather quickly.

Yoga Class

 

Complete Yoga

Sujantra: At one of the studios where you teach, your class is called Complete Yoga. Could you describe that class?

Richard: At this studio they don’t put levels up so they want the teachers to describe their classes and that’s what I came up with. The idea behind it is that I don’t just do an asana class.  All of my classes have pranayama involved. Intermediate classes have meditation too. Complete Yoga means there will be some breathing at the end of class.

Sujantra: And you put in some meditation for some of them and a little philosophy.

Richard: Mostly I do that with the intermediate classes and some of the advanced beginners too.

Sujantra: For those students who are familiar with pranayama but not meditation, how would you describe the difference between the two?

Richard: Pranayama is working with your breath. It’s kind of a false practice because you can’t really stand back from your breath entirely. The breath and consciousness are the two sides of the same coin. In your breathing practice you’re watching your breath and looking to see what your reaction is where you’re holding or resisting. You’re standing back from your breath. I take meditations from the hold hatha texts which include some sort of a visualization.

Sujantra: In “Autobiography of a Yogi” one thing that always stuck in my mind is when Yogananda talked about that in the state of Samadhi breathing stops because mind has stopped. Does it always have to be that way or is that one approach to highest consciousness?

Richard: That sounds like classical pranayama in which the breathing is slowed down so much that it stops altogether. There’s nothing else going on, the breathing movement is a fluctuation and you’re trying to calm those superficial fluctuations so you can look inward and find out what’s going on inside. So I would say that it’s a formula in yoga that says to stop this and that thing stops too. If you stop your breath the fluctuations of consciousness will cease as well.

Pranayama

You Can’t Stop Breathing

Sujantra: My common sense mind says, “you can’t stop breathing.”

Richard: No, we can’t.

Sujantra: So it slows down so much that the mind slows down and you reach deep peace.

Richard. Really slow. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you have a project in front of you and you’re very intent on it, you stop moving, your breath slows down and you become inwardly focused. There are things going on around you but you may not even hear them until they become a little bit more intrusive. That’s a form of Samadhi right there.

Sujantra: That’s a super form of concentration right there.

Richard: Yes, well, Samadhi is really is a state where you enter into whatever you’re meditating on, you see it from the inside. Samadhi means, “put together.” You understand it in its essence.

Sujantra: Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well.

 

Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 1

Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 3

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Philosophy Podcast E20: Exploring Individuality

Exploring our human individuality and our divine individuality: ego and soul…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 20: Exploring our human individuality and our divine individuality: ego and soul.

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Meditation Podcast E23: Open Your Heart & Third Eye

Opening your heart and third eye through visualization and chanting…

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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 23: Opening your heart and third eye through visualization and chanting.

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Interviews Podcast E10: Alexa Hatt

Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 10: Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 1

Today’s podcast interview is with Richard Rosen and he began his study of yoga in 1980…

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Today’s podcast interview is with Richard Rosen and he began his study of yoga in 1980, trained for several years in the early 1980s at the B.K.S. Iyengar Institute in San Francisco, CA. In 1987 Richard co-founded the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA which existed for nearly 28 years. It recently closed its doors in 2015. Richard still teaches seven weekly classes in Oakland and in the Berkeley areas. He’s a contributing editor for Yoga Journal Magazine and President of the Board of a non-profit organization that we are going to talk about, which is a wonderful organization. Richard has written three books published by Shambhala, The Yoga of Breath, Pranayama, and Original Yoga and he’s also working on a fourth book which we are also going to touch base on today. Richard lives in a cottage built in 1906 in Berkeley, California, and Richard, I assume you’re talking to us from your cottage.

Richard: I’m talking to you from the office that is outside my cottage.

Sujantra: Oh the office outside your cottage, wonderful! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Richard: I’m really happy to be here. Thanks.

PYO

Coming to the Practice of Yoga

Sujantra: My first question, Richard, is what brought you to the practice of yoga?

Richard: Well, I moved down to the Bay Area in 1979 to finish up a Master’s Degree at Cal and things weren’t going too well and I was sitting around this little apartment I lived in at the time, trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I thought of a book I’d read a few years earlier and had no idea what the guy was talking about. Then all of a sudden, a little bell went off in the back of my mind and I got up, got the book and it was like a 180 degree turnaround and I could all of a sudden understand what the man was talking about. The man’s name was Krishnamurti. It started me off looking around for other sources that might help me figure out what to do with myself. Eventually I found a book that said yoga was the best exercise there was or had ever been invented, so I just happened to also find a local newspaper at the time that directed me to the Yoga Room in Berkeley. I started yoga to help myself try and figure out what to do.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sujantra: What was it about Krishnamurti or his writings that woke up something inside of you?

Richard: I don’t remember exactly which book it was but it was very inspiring and it gave me insight into how and why I was feeling the way I was feeling. It moved me that there were other sources and books like that because before that I had never had this feeling whatsoever. It just really woke me up to the possibilities. I was recently teaching in Ojai and a place called the Yoga Crib and I actually stayed in the room where Krishnamurti had written so many years ago.

Sujantra: Wow, the big circle of life keeps going. That’s beautiful. You turned to yoga in 1979 for your own growth and years later you’re writing books for Shambhala and people around the world are learning yoga from you. Is there a specific moment when you felt that transition from a student of yoga to not just a student but also a teacher of yoga?

Richard: (Chuckles.) Sometimes I find it hard to believe I am a teacher. I still consider myself very much a student. I’ve been very fortunate being allowed to write those books and I really appreciate everything Shambhala has done for me. I still consider myself a beginner and a student, so thank you for calling me a teacher but I will pass on that for a while.

Inspiration to Teach

Nikole YTT

Sujantra: Well, here at our studio in San Diego we train a lot of people who want to be yoga teachers. What do you say to someone who’s inspired to teach to give them confidence and courage to take that big step?

Richard: Well, it is a big step and it’s a big responsibility. You have to think about it really hard before you decide to become a teacher and of course it requires a lot of training and you want to get the best training possible. It’s important to, in the old days, the yogis dedicated their life to the practice and we can’t quite do that nowadays, but we have to still make a huge effort if we want to become a teacher. We have to read the old books and the new books that are available to give us insight into the old books. We have to practice and it’s important to get out there and find some people you can teach, make your mistakes, learn from them and keep plugging away. It’s not a straight-line progress to become a teacher. Just how your practice waxes and wanes like the moon I think that’s the way your teaching career progresses as well.

The Yoga of Breath

Sujantra: One of the things I liked right away about the book of yours that I read, “The Yoga of Breath,” is that right away you come across quotes from the Upanishads and great teachers so you obviously revere and give a lot of importance to those source teachings.

Richard: I think tradition is important. Nowadays, the younger yogis and teachers I don’t know how much they know about tradition and that’s fine. I’m not sure how important it is in certain contexts but I do think that it’s important to have a little bit of knowledge about the old yoga texts. There were generations and generations of old yogis who were out there doing their practice and the wisdom they came up with is very important to know about.

Sujantra: Right, and the great teachers that have come to the West, they go right to those source teachings. I’m thinking of Vivekenanda, Aurobindo, and yogis like that. They are honoring the past and I think it’s important for contemporary teachers to do the same.

Richard: Exactly. I think it’s important. I don’t know how much you want to do that, depending on what school you’re teaching from, but you should know at least a little bit about the background.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease

Sujantra: And you mention the importance of teachers practicing and I am wondering after 35 years of your own yoga journey, what does your daily practice look like?

Richard: Well, I might let you know that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about thirteen or fourteen years ago. I don’t know if you know much about Parkinson’s but it’s a neuromuscular condition that makes you stiffer, weaker and less balanced which is pretty much the reverse of everything I had been working on for the first twenty years. My practice has changed because of that. First of all, I’ve been very fortunate with this condition. People that I know can progress very rapidly to the point where after just two or three years they are in pretty bad condition. I’m very fortunate. It’s very difficult to tell sometimes that I have anything like Parkinson’s. My practice still has changed to accommodate some of the shortcomings. My balance is a little bit off and I’m not as strong as I used to be. I use a lot of props. I go a lot slower than I used to do.

Pranayama and Meditation

Sujantra: Is your practice mostly an asana practice or do you incorporate pranayama and meditation?

Richard: Breathing over the years has become a lot more interesting to me than the asana. The asana is supported, using chairs and blocks and straps, but I spend a lot more time than I used to on breathing. I’m not doing anything special. For the most part, I am simply watching my breath. It’s very important to have a breathing practice as part of your yoga practice. Most classes nowadays are solely asana classes.

Sujantra: I read an article recently about Rodney Yee and he said if he only had ten minutes to practice he would do pranayama.

Richard: My good friend, Rodney Yee.

Sujantra: Oh good, he’s right up there, right? In that area?

Richard: He was but he’s living in New York now. He’s the co-founder of Piedmont Yoga.

Sujantra: Oh the two of you founded it together.

Richard: I’ve known Rodney forever. The two of us went to the B.K.S. Iyengar school together. We’ve known each other for about 35-36 years.

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Interviews Podcast E09: Nina Camille

Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 09: Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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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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Philosophy Podcast E18: Dasaratha Promises Kaikeyi [Ramayana]

Sujantra shares the story of how the great king made a promise that ended up being his demise…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 18: Sujantra shares the story of how the great king made a promise that ended up being his demise.

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Meditation Podcast E21: Finding Your Purpose in Life

In this episode Sujantra addresses finding your life purpose and how meditation can aid this pursuit…

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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 21: In this episode Sujantra addresses finding your life purpose and how meditation can aid this pursuit…

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Part 7: Gratitude

GRATITUDE   Expressions of gratitude, things like thank-you notes, are considered signs of good breeding. I think I may have written one, maybe two, during my entire life. They also seem to be more of an activity for the leisure class and a girl thing, too. (I’m sure that if I were married my wi