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Meditation

The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra and what you need to know about it

The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra deals with our personal growth and development. A prominent part of our development is to discover our place and purpose in the world. When our primal survival needs are met, and we build a healthy emotional relation to pleasure through our body, we begin to investigate what it is we further want from life. To feel fulfilled and happy, we want to claim our unique place in the circle of life. From this natural urge to define ourselves, we begin to explore what it is that makes us unique and how we can use that to find our purpose. The energies that govern this personal sense of I-ness are located in our Third/Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura in Sanskrit). It is associated with the element of fire.  The third Chakra is the home of our power, self-esteem, self-image, energy, will, responsibility, and life purpose.

A Simple Guide to the Root chakra.
A Simple Guide to the Sacral Chakra

 

What is The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra and how it affects us

The Third Chakra is located just below the solar plexus (our diaphragm). It is in the centre of what is often described as the gut-brain. Since our guts are lined up with many nerve cells, it forms a direct connection with the brain. The constant dialogue between the gut (emotions) and the brain (thoughts) results in a personal sense of I that is unique and authentic and wishes to apply itself onto the world.

These energies of personal will, power, self-esteem, digestion and assertiveness are part of the Solar Plexus Chakra, which is associated with the element Fire. This Fire quality pushes us to develop, discover and to expand our life all the time from inside out. From here our authentic personality grows as we begin to touch the world in our own meaningful and unique way.

 

How does it feel when we have a healthy sense of Self?

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The Second/ Sacral Chakra and what you need to know about it

The Second/ Sacral Chakra is about our senses and emotions. As children, we begin to know the world through our senses. They tell us which things cause pleasure or pain. Naturally, we start longing for pleasure and avoiding pain by trying to control the things we come in touch with. This dialogue with the world affects much of our sensuality, libido, and passion for anything we do. These energies are located at our Second/ Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana in Sanskrit). which governs the ‘pleasure seeker’ inside us. Here is what you should know about it and the way to balance it.

A Simple Guide to the Root chakra.
A Simple Guide to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

What is The Second/ Sacral Chakra and how it affects us

The Second/ Sacral Chakra is located at the roof of the pelvis, just below the navel. Together with the first chakra, it governs the primal energies of our body. But while the First/ Root Chakra mostly deals with our primal need for survival, the Sacral Chakra is about the body’s interaction with the external world. It governs our emotional reaction to its sensations.

When our roots are firmly planted (being physically safe and grounded), we want to experience the world. As we grow, our emotional landscape develops through interaction with the world. The nourishment we receive on this level is not only physical but mostly sensory and emotional. We discover the pleasure in things and develop cravings to the positive sensations that some bring us. Since we are not in control over our sensations or their duration, we begin to develop emotional reactions towards them. We crave pleasant things and fear their unavoidable end. On the other hand, we fear other things and long for their end.

The emotional energy in our Sacral Chakra (which is associated with the Water Element) is forever in motion. It keeps flowing and changing throughout our lives. Like water, our push and pull game with the world is in constant flux and never rest. Our sexuality, creativity, and passions all arise from here. So too most of our addictions and fixations. In many cases, this energy is the silent driving force behind what we do (or avoid) in the world as adults.

How our emotional and sexual energies become balanced?

 

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The First/ Root Chakra and what you need to know about it

The First/ Root Chakra governs our primal needs to survive, to be safe, and to belong. To survive we need food, shelter, and protection from danger. It is difficult for us to live a balanced and happy life when these basic needs are not taken care off. We need to feel connected to the Earth by being an integral part of it. These primal energies are centred in our Root Chakra (Muladhara in Sanskrit). Here is what you should know about it!

A Simple Guide to the Sacral Chakra

A Simple Guide to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

 

What is The First/ Root Chakra and how it affects us

The Root chakra locates at the base of our spine, just below the tailbone. It is all about security, safety and a sense of belonging. In simple words – Grounding.  It takes care of our primal needs, physically, mentally and emotionally. Only after this happens, we have a solid foundation to evolve as human beings. Just like plants; first the roots arise, then the stem grows, the leaves, and finally, flowers appear. In other words; without a proper foundation of safety and belonging, it is difficult to speak of happiness and fulfilment on higher levels.

 

How do we plant our Roots firmly?

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Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

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Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behaviour.

These effects on behaviour depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.

In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.

“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”

 

Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.

This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.

Image shows the location of the amygdala in the brain.

The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.

When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.

In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.

The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.

 

Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function

The need to breathe links the mammalian olfactory system inextricably to the respiratory rhythms that draw air through the nose. In rodents and other small animals, slow oscillations of local field potential activity are driven at the rate of breathing (∼2–12 Hz) in olfactory bulb and cortex, and faster oscillatory bursts are coupled to specific phases of the respiratory cycle. These dynamic rhythms are thought to regulate cortical excitability and coordinate network interactions, helping to shape olfactory coding, memory, and behavior. However, while respiratory oscillations are a ubiquitous hallmark of olfactory system function in animals, direct evidence for such patterns is lacking in humans. In this study, we acquired intracranial EEG data from rare patients (Ps) with medically refractory epilepsy, enabling us to test the hypothesis that cortical oscillatory activity would be entrained to the human respiratory cycle, albeit at the much slower rhythm of ∼0.16–0.33 Hz. Our results reveal that natural breathing synchronizes electrical activity in human piriform (olfactory) cortex, as well as in limbic-related brain areas, including amygdala and hippocampus. Notably, oscillatory power peaked during inspiration and dissipated when breathing was diverted from nose to mouth. Parallel behavioral experiments showed that breathing phase enhances fear discrimination and memory retrieval. Our findings provide a unique framework for understanding the pivotal role of nasal breathing in coordinating neuronal oscillations to support stimulus processing and behavior.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Animal studies have long shown that olfactory oscillatory activity emerges in line with the natural rhythm of breathing, even in the absence of an odor stimulus. Whether the breathing cycle induces cortical oscillations in the human brain is poorly understood. In this study, we collected intracranial EEG data from rare patients with medically intractable epilepsy, and found evidence for respiratory entrainment of local field potential activity in human piriform cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. These effects diminished when breathing was diverted to the mouth, highlighting the importance of nasal airflow for generating respiratory oscillations. Finally, behavioral data in healthy subjects suggest that breathing phase systematically influences cognitive tasks related to amygdala and hippocampal functions.

“Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function” by Christina Zelano, Heidi Jiang, Guangyu Zhou, Nikita Arora, Stephan Schuele, Joshua Rosenow and Jay A. Gottfried in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online December 7 2016 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2586-16.2016

 

 

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Pratyahara: What It Means To “Withdraw”

In a world of information overload, the yoga practice of pratyahara offers us a haven of silence.

During my first few months of yoga classes, the teacher taught us to backbend deeply during the first step of Sun Salutation. Not only were we encouraged to bend backward deeply, we were also taught to drop our heads back as far as we could. Occasionally a student would pass out in the middle of the movement. Luckily, no one ever hurt themselves in their fall to the floor. I was intrigued to discover that other students in the class perceived the fainting not as a physical problem, but as some form of spiritual event.

For many years I’ve suspected that this sudden fainting—this withdrawal from the world—was not a spiritual event at all, but simply a physiological one. People probably fainted because taking the head back can momentarily block the vertebral arteries in the neck, reducing the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. As I look back, however, I think my fellow students’ confusion mirrors the confusion we all have about the yoga practice of pratyahara—about what it means to withdraw from the senses and the world.

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What Is Pratyahara?

In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali—the most ancient and revered sourcebook for yoga practice—the second chapter is filled with teachings about the ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga system. The system is presented as a series of practices which begin with “external limbs” like ethical precepts and move toward more “internal limbs” like meditation. The fifth step or limb is called pratyahara and is defined as “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses.” Almost without exception yoga students are puzzled by this limb. We seem to inherently understand the basic ethical teachings like satya (the practice of truthfulness), and the basic physical teachings like asana (the practice of posture), and pranayama (the use of breath to affect the mind). But for most of us the practice of pratyahara remains elusive.

One way to begin to understand pratyahara on an experiential level is to focus on a familiar yoga posture, Savasana (Corpse Pose). This pose is done lying supine on the floor and is the practice of relaxing deeply. The first stage of Savasana involves physiological relaxation. In this stage, as you become comfortable, there is first an awareness of the muscles gradually relaxing, then of the breath slowing, and finally of the body completely letting go. While delicious, this first stage is only the beginning of the practice.

For years I interpreted the teachings I heard about pratyahara to mean that I must literally, physically withdraw from the world in order to be a true disciple of yoga. I reacted with dismay to this teaching. I was an engaged person, busy studying physical therapy in school to improve my yoga teaching. In addition, I was married and contemplating having several children. I sometimes worried that unless I separated myself from all these commitments, I was doomed to be an inferior yoga student.

Today I feel differently. I realize that life involves interactions with other people, and that often those interactions include an element of conflict. In fact, I don’t even need another person to be in conflict. I can be, and occasionally am, in conflict within myself. Sometimes I’m tempted to withdraw to avoid these conflicts, but I know that this withdrawal is not what pratyahara is about.

I like to think that for Patanjali pratyahara meant something different than a simple withdrawal from life. To me, pratyahara means that even as I participate in the task at hand, I have a space between the world around me and my responses to that world. In other words, no matter how much I practice meditation and postures and breathing, there will still be many times when I act in response to people and situations. Responding to the world isn’t a problem in and of itself; the problem comes when I respond with knee-jerk reactions rather than with actions that I choose.

Ultimately, the practice of pratyahara—in fact, all the practices of yoga—enable me to choose my responses instead of merely reacting. I can choose to dance with any stimulus that comes my way, or I can choose to step back and not respond to that stimulus. The variable is not what’s around me, but how I choose to use my energy. If I retreat to a cave in the mountains, I can still agitate my nervous system; I can still generate thoughts and relive past reactions. To me, practicing pratyahara doesn’t mean running away from stimulation (which is basically impossible). Rather, practicing pratyahara means remaining in the middle of a stimulating environment and consciously not reacting, but instead choosing how to respond.

How To Practice Pratyahara

I also incorporate the practice of pratyahara into my asana practice. When I remain still within a pose, I often have numerous thoughts. Sometimes I’m in conflict about whether to stay in the pose or come out of it. Sometimes I catch myself judging whether I’m doing the pose well or not so well. At these times, when I realize my mind is busy, I practice pratyahara by withdrawing my energy from my thoughts about the pose and focusing instead on the pose itself.

Another way I have begun to practice pratyahara is to pay attention to my need to seek out stimulation as an escape. I try to notice when I want to escape from my life by finding highly stimulating environments. For example, sometimes I want to go to a movie to escape; sometimes I want to go to the mall. I don’t think going to the mall or to a movie is in and of itself problematic. But when I use these stimulating activities to escape, it can interfere with my intention to be consciously present in every moment.

When I was a child, I loved to go on carnival rides. The stimulation of the roller coaster would shut out all other awareness. Now that I am a student of yoga, I am more aware of the urge to drown out my conflicts with overstimulation. Whenever I can notice my attempt to escape into stimulation, I am using pratyahara as a powerful tool to improve my daily life. In these moments I begin to understand the difference between withdrawing and escaping, between pratyahara and forgetting my practice. Learning to incorporate my yoga practice into my daily life in this way is a challenge, but it is a challenge that gives meaning and direction to my life.

Taken From: https://www.yogajournal.com/

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How Yoga changes your Brain

There is increasing evidence that yoga and meditation can improve our memory and attention, both help us to function at a higher level at work, home or in school. Furthermore, these benefits occur whether you’re new to yoga and meditation or a long-time practitioner, and studies show it might even help starve off age-related neural decline. The reason, neuroscientists have discovered, is that certain areas of our brain undergo positive structural changes when we meditate. Because the brain exhibits plasticity, which means it has the ability to change, whatever you experience will be reflected in – and have impact on – your brain structure.

Several groundbreaking studies have shown how meditation, especially when practiced over the long-term, can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions. For example, a continued meditation practice can produce a thickening of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that plays a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought and language. Like a body builder who pumps iron, the bigger his biceps get, the heavier weights he can lift. Likewise, when we meditate, we exercise the parts of the brain that involve the regulation of emotion and mind-body awareness that lead to changes in brain activity and structure, which in turn improve our memory and attention.

Studies have shown how meditation can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions.
Studies show how meditation can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions.

One of my fellow researchers, Dr Sara Lazar of the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, found these brain changes to be especially apparent in long-time meditators. In her 2005 study, for example, MRI brain scans were used to assess cortical thickness in participants with extensive meditation experience (averaging about 9 years of experience and 6 hours per week of meditation practice), and a control group that did not practice yoga or meditation. Dr Lazar found the brain regions associated with attention, sensory, cognitive and emotional processing were thicker in meditation participants than those in the control group who did not engage in yoga or meditation.

This was the first significant study (of now more similar studies) to provide evidence for a link between long-term meditation practice and structural brain changes. Equally exciting is that the greater prefrontal cortical thickness found in the meditation group was most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that extensive meditation might also offset age-related cortical thinning. It appears that the brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing, which frequently diminishes over the years, can remain more youthful in those people who continue to practice meditation.

Alt text hereThe brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing can remain more youthful.

In another interesting study conducted at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA, differences in the brain’s anatomy and structure called gyrification (or cortical folding) were also discovered in people who meditated. Although the implications of this research remain to be fully established, the findings from this study support the possbility that meditation can lead to changes in regulation of activities including daydreaming, mind-wandering, and projections into the past or future, and a possible integration of autonomic, emotional, and cognitive processes.

And while research reveals long-term meditation can produce structural changes in specific areas of the brain that enhance our ability to learn, one does not have to practice for thousands of hours to reap the positive brain benefits. Dr Lazar also found that these increases in grey matter in some regions of the brain occurred after just 8-weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Education (MBSR), a formal program involving meditation and some yoga practice. These results suggest that even short-term participation in meditation-related practices can lead to changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions that are involved in learning and memory processes, as well as in emotion regulation.

 

Long-term meditation can enhance our ability to learn.
Long-term meditation can enhance our ability to learn.

Yoga makes the brain Smarter

Think about how we feel when we’re stressed. We might eat more, lose our appetite, sweat profusely, or simply want to bury our troubles in mindless television or computer games. What happens to our brains when we are under stress is that our bodies increase the secretion of cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. When faced with sustained, high levels of chronic stress, the associated high levels of cortisol can actually be toxic and even fatal to our brain cells. Because our hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, is particularly vulnerable to high sustained cortisol levels, we may ultimately compromise our learning and memory capacities when faced with uncontrolled chronic stress. By managing stress through yoga and meditation, you can actually improve your memory, concentration, and your ability to learn.

While researching the effects of long-term yoga and meditation, I found an intriguing study that reported improvements in attention, mood and stress over a very short time period. When a group of 40 undergraduate students were given 5 days of 20-minute meditation training, this group showed significantly better attentional abilities and control of stress than a similar control group of 40 students given only relaxation training, including greater improvement in attention, lower anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue and an elevated mood.

There was also a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol.

These studies, which are just a few of those being conducted today, clearly show a strong relationship between our ability to maintain attention and our responsiveness to stress and emotional reactivity. In other words, the more one practices the contemplative skill of controlling attention through meditation and yoga, the more one has a manageable stress response and improved emotional reactivity. Ultimately, our cognitive performance is most efficient and at its optimal level when we are more in control of our stress and emotions.

Our cognitive performance is most efficient and at its optimal level when we are more in control of our stress and emotions.

The Effects of Yoga on Memory and Decision Making

Yoga and meditation not only make our brain more efficient, they also improve brain activity related to decision-making and cognitive performance. In a research study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana, scientists compared the effects of a yoga exercise session to aerobic exercise, the results showed that the memory retention and cognitive performance after yoga was significantly superior (ie. shorter reaction times, increased accuracy) to aerobic exercise. The reason yoga can be better for the brain than aerobics (although both are good), is that it allows us to cope with stress and emotions more effectively.

Long-term yoga improves concentration, processing and motor speed

Research clearly indicates that yoga and meditation, especially a long-term practice, improves the way our brain functions, including our ability to concentrate and perform well on certain tests. In one study comparing 15 yoga practitioners with a control group of non-practitioners and involving a series of tests for attention, the yoga group performed significantly better. Long-term practitioners of yoga and meditation showed greater attention span, processing speed, attention alternation ability,and performance in interference tests.

Another recent study also showed improvement in cognitive functioning and dexterity among 57 research volunteers who were given tasks requiring attention, visual scanning and motor speed. Each participant was assessed before and after three types of sessions: yoga meditation, supine rest, and control (no intervention). The results showed that the yoga condition was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning with no improvement in test skills for those who did not practice yoga and meditation.

Yoga was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning.
Yoga was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning.

Yoga Improves Computation Skills

Many people believe that equation solving and memorisation are the most effective ways to improve one’s mathematical aptitude—all of which can be extremely time-consuming and, to the math phobic, feel like an ordeal. The fact is that sessions of yoga and tai chi can also sharpen your mathematical ability. These were the findings of a Bolo University of Miami School of Medicine study in which 38 adults participated in a session that included two minutes of tai chi movement and two minutes of sitting, standing, and lying down yoga poses. The researchers measured self-reported math computation skills of each participant before and after the session. The findings showed that the tai chi/yoga participants performed better on basic math after the workout. Why? The increased relaxation may have contributed to the increased speed and accuracy noted on math computations following the tai chi/yoga class.

Yoga as a learning tool for students around the world.

Another study providing preliminary evidence that yoga may improve academic performance of children in schools was done on 8OO teenagers in India. The students in this study who were engaged in a yoga program performed better academically than those who did not do yoga. Researchers selected 159 high-stress students and 142 low-stress students. Both groups were given tests in mathematics, science, and social studies. Those who participated in a 7-week yoga program of (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation performed better in academics than those who did not do yoga. The study also concluded that low-stress students performed better than high-stream students, showing, once again, that indelible connection between stress and academic performance.

Taken from: https://upliftconnect.com

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Loneliness, The Middle Way and Enlightenment

In the middle way, there is no reference point. The mind with no reference point does not resolve itself, does not fixate or grasp. How could we possibly have no reference point? To have no reference point would be to change a deep-seated habitual response to the world: wanting to make it work out one way or the other. If I can’t go left or right, I will die! When we don’t go left or right, we feel like we are in a detox centre. We’re alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we’ve been trying to avoid by going left or right. That edginess can feel pretty heavy.

 

“We’re alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we’ve been trying to avoid by going left or right. That edginess can feel pretty heavy.”

 

However, years and years of going to the left or right, going to yes or no, going to right or wrong has never really changed anything. Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy. It’s like changing the position of our legs in meditation. Our legs hurt from sitting cross-legged, so we move them. And then we feel, “Phew! What a relief!” But two and a half minutes later, we want to move them again. We keep moving around seeking pleasure, seeking comfort, and the satisfaction that we get is very short-lived.

We hear a lot about the pain of samsara, and we also hear about liberation. But we don’t hear much about how painful it is to go from being completely stuck to becoming unstuck. The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA. We are undoing a pattern that is not just our pattern. It’s the human pattern: we project onto the world a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution. We can have whiter teeth, a weed-free lawn, a strife-free life, a world without embarrassment. We can live happily every after. This pattern keeps us dissatisfied and causes us a lot of suffering.

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Our Birthright: The Middle Way

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

 

“Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.”

 

The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.

Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way—in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually call good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right and wrong. We are instructed to let the thoughts come and go as if touching a bubble with a feather. This straightforward discipline prepares us to stop struggling and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being.

 

“We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.”

 

The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it’s very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don’t want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.

Usually, we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a non-threatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

There are six ways of describing this kind of cool loneliness. They are less desire, contentment, avoiding unnecessary activity, complete discipline, not wandering in the world of desire, and not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts.

Less Desire

Less desire is the willingness to be lonely without resolution when everything in us yearns for something to cheer us up and change our mood. Practising this kind of loneliness is a way of sowing seeds so that fundamental restlessness decreases. In meditation, for example, every time we label “thinking” instead of getting endlessly run around by our thoughts, we are training in just being here without dissociation. We can’t do that now to the degree that we weren’t willing to do it yesterday or the day before or last week or last year. After we practice less desire wholeheartedly and consistently, something shifts. We feel less desire in the sense of being less solidly seduced by our Very Important Story Lines. So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior. That’s the path of bravery. The less we spin off and go crazy, the more we taste the satisfaction of cool loneliness. As the Zen master, Katagiri Roshi often said, “One can be lonely and not be tossed away by it.”

Contentment

The second kind of loneliness is contentment. When we have nothing, we have nothing to lose. We don’t have anything to lose but being programmed in our guts to feel we have a lot to lose. Our feeling that we have a lot to lose is rooted in fear—of loneliness, of change, of anything that can’t be resolved, of nonexistence. The hope that we can avoid this feeling and the fear that we can’t become our reference point.

"Thoma Loneliness" by Hans Thoma - cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl.

“Thoma Loneliness” by Hans Thoma – cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl.

When we draw a line down the centre of a page, we know who we are if we’re on the right side and who we are if we’re on the left side. But we don’t know who we are when we don’t put ourselves on either side. Then we just don’t know what to do. We just don’t know. We have no reference point, no hand to hold. At that point we can either freakout or settle in. Contentment is a synonym for loneliness, cool loneliness, settling down with cool loneliness. We give up believing that being able to escape our loneliness is going to bring any lasting happiness or joy or sense of well-being or courage or strength. Usually we have to give up this belief about a billion times, again and again making friends with our jumpiness and dread, doing the same old thing a billion times with awareness. Then without our even noticing, something begins to shift. We can just be lonely with no alternatives, content to be right here with the mood and texture of what’s happening.

Avoiding Unnecessary Activities

The third kind of loneliness is avoiding unnecessary activities. When we’re lonely in a “hot” way, we look for something to save us; we look for a way out. We get this queasy feeling that we call loneliness, and our minds just go wild trying to come up with companions to save us from despair. That’s called unnecessary activity. It’s a way of keeping ourselves busy so we don’t have to feel any pain. It could take the form of obsessively daydreaming of true romance, or turning a tidbit of gossip into the six o’clock news, or even going off by ourselves into the wilderness.

The point is that in all these activities, we are seeking companionship in our usual, habitual way, using our same old repetitive ways of distancing ourselves from the demon loneliness. Could we just settle down and have some compassion and respect for ourselves? Could we stop trying to escape from being alone with ourselves? What about practicing not jumping and grabbing when we begin to panic? Relaxing with loneliness is a worthy occupation. As the Japanese poet Ryokan says, “If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.”

Complete Discipline

Complete discipline is another component of cool loneliness. Complete discipline means that at every opportunity, we’re willing to come back, just gently come back to the present moment. This is loneliness as complete discipline. We’re willing to sit still, just be there, alone. We don’t particularly have to cultivate this kind of loneliness; we could just sit still long enough to realize it’s how things really are. We are fundamentally alone, and there is nothing anywhere to hold on to. Moreover, this is not a problem. In fact, it allows us to finally discover a completely unfabricated state of being. Our habitual assumptions—all our ideas about how things are—keep us from seeing anything in a fresh, open way. We say, “Oh yes, I know.” But we don’t know. We don’t ultimately know anything. There’s no certainty about anything. This basic truth hurts, and we want to run away from it. But coming back and relaxing with something as familiar as loneliness is good discipline for realizing the profundity of the unresolved moments of our lives. We are cheating ourselves when we run away from the ambiguity of loneliness.

Don’t Wander in the World of Desire

Not wandering in the world of desire is another way of describing cool loneliness. Wandering in the world of desire involves looking for alternatives, seeking something to comfort us—food, drink, people. The word desire encompasses that addiction quality, the way we grab for something because we want to find a way to make things okay. That quality comes from never having grown up. We still want to go home and be able to open the refrigerator and find it full of our favorite goodies; when the going gets tough, we want to yell “Mom!” But what we’re doing as we progress along the path is leaving home and becoming homeless. Not wandering in the world of desire is about relating directly with how things are. Loneliness is not a problem. Loneliness is nothing to be solved. The same is true for any other experience we might have.

Do Not Seek Security from One’s Discursive Thoughts

Another aspect of cool loneliness is not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts. The rug’s been pulled; the jig is up; there is no way to get out of this one! We don’t even seek the companionship of our own constant conversation with ourselves about how it is and how it isn’t, whether it is or whether it isn’t, whether it should or whether it shouldn’t, whether it can or whether it can’t. With cool loneliness, we do not expect security from our own internal chatter. That’s why we are instructed in meditation to label it “thinking.” It has no objective reality. It is transparent and ungraspable. We’re encouraged to just touch that chatter and let it go, not make much ado about nothing.

 

“We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humour at who we are.”

 

Cool loneliness allows us to look honestly and without aggression at our own minds. We can gradually drop our ideas of who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be. We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humour at who we are. Then loneliness is no threat and heartache, no punishment.

Cool loneliness doesn’t provide any resolution or give us ground under our feet. It challenges us to step into a world of no reference point without polarizing or solidifying. This is called the middle way, or the sacred path of the warrior.

When you wake up in the morning and out of nowhere comes the heartache of alienation and loneliness, could you use that as a golden opportunity? Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart? The next time you get a chance, experiment with this.

Taken from: https://www.lionsroar.com/six-kinds-of-loneliness/

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Ayuryoga – Ayurveda & Yoga

The concept of AyurYoga was formed around three years ago when Elena & Cristina met in an Ayurvedic Nutrition course in the Academy of Ayurvedic studies in Amsterdam.
Elena, Ayurvedic practitioner & therapist certified at the Ganesha Centre of Ayurveda en Yoga studies in Alkmaar and Cristina, Iyengar yoga certified teacher.

 

MEDITERRANEAN DIET AND AYURVEDIC NUTRITION

They say Yoga and Ayurveda are sisters sciences, they are in fact coming from the same philosophical background. Further as Yoga practitioners we know that it’s impossible to engage into a yoga practice without spontaneously reviewing one’s own lifestyle and as Ayurveda practitioners we know how physical activity will benefit our mental and physical condition.

Instead of dogmatically applying Yoga and Ayurveda teachings and impose a rigid military lifestyle forcing changes from the outside, with our workshops we want to take participants to the level of simple observation of their nature.
Here Ayurveda offers a simple method based on the Doshas system and their qualities that, beyond any kind of “judgment”, supports people to reestablish their body/mind equilibrium throughout reviewing and tuning diet, daily routine, massage and the use of spices and herbs that are finally just a part of your diet.

Ayurvedic doshasHOW TO APPLY AYURVEDIC PRINCIPALS?

This knowledge is very simply learned; once the basic principle is understood it can be applied to every situation. In this sense you don’t need to go indian to remain healthy. Speaking about food, eating what you need at your cellular level as well as your emotional level is enough, provided that you are aware of your needs of course!

To become aware of one’s own needs requires a process that may be chaotic, dynamic, concerning at the first sight, but it is a necessary step to remove any external conditioning that may prevent you to develop your own, unique personal awareness.
With our AyurYoga workshops we hope to make a contribution into supporting students in taking responsibility towards their own health and joy.

AYURYOGA WORKSHOPS AT LIVE YOGA AMSTERDAM

The AyurYoga workshops are tuned with seasonal changes affecting body and mind as well as nature around us. They are generally composed by 3 parts:

  • Asanas & Pranayama practice
  • Eat & Learn experience based on Ayurveda Nutrition concept
  • An interactive discussion amongst participants on topics treated by the workshop in relation to their personal experience.
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