Mind Articles Q4 2011(5)

Sweet Silence

Dec 5, 2011

What would happen if you stopped talking for two days? A busy working mom visits a monastery and learns just how noisy all that quiet can be. "I quieted down enough to realize that what I had tasted - and tried to avoid - was my fear of losing my daughter." "At the monastery, where no one knew my name, no one knew my story or heard my words, I recaptured something important."

Source: Whole Living

Chill Out

Chill Out

Nov 7, 2011

More is a four-letter word. Every day is filled with lists of more things to do: more projects to complete, more meals to cook, more events to plan and attend. No wonder we all run around feeling crunched for time, exhausted and resentful—especially this time of year. When your mind is constantly telling you to hurry up, the accompanying tension in your body contributes to your agitation. So telling yourself “I don’t have enough time!” produces physical responses that zap your energy and trigger the stress response, which can wreak havoc on your digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems—to say nothing of your mental health. But guess what? You literally have all the time that’s available—there’s nowhere else to get more. The keys to understanding that fact are to pay attention to the little choices you make every day that rob you of precious time, and to make room for rest and relaxation.

Source: Natural Health

My Truce With Yoga

Oct 25, 2011

Chants and chakra-balancing asanas? Or hip-hop and butt-blasting power vinyasa? How one newbie found her practice. I came to yoga not on a journey of personal transformation, but because I put my back out and couldn't sit comfortably in a chair. Taking yoga seemed a bit more wholesome and a bit less habit-forming than popping muscle relaxants -- a way to heal my tweaked lower back without taking an unfortunate side trip to the Valley of the Dolls. For years I'd resisted yoga. I thought yoga was for self-indulgent, middle-aged ladies with time on their hands, or for fanatical vegetarian former gymnasts. My initial search for a class appropriate for my back didn't exactly allay these concerns. If anything, it created more. As a novice, I felt bewildered. I couldn't help but wonder: Was there one correct way to do yoga? Who's got it right, the soccer mom who takes power vinyasa at the gym in head-to-toe Lululemon, or the vegan purist who wears hemp and has her own guru in India? And if I take classes solely to heal my back, not to save my soul, am I "doing yoga" or just really smug stretching? Yoga's traditions are many threaded and ever-changing. But purists mostly agree on one thing: Physical practice is not enough. True yogis also practice the meditative and moral elements of the eight limbs. So it's easy to see why modern yoga, especially as it's often practiced in the United States, where yoga is estimated to be a $6 billion industry, frustrates many purists. Although about 16 million Americans take yoga, Patanjali would hardly recognize much of it: Yoga Booty Ballet, Fat Free Yoga, Hot Nude Yoga. Many yoga (or yoga-inspired) classes and DVDs promise vigorous workouts and hard-body results with meager emphasis on mental and spiritual rewards. In America, yoga hasn't been sold as a path to enlightenment so much as a path to "yoga butt." Despite my own qualms about yoga's spiritual aspects, as I continued experimenting with studios, I found myself shunning high-octane classes for the relative serenity of the shalas. Not only was power yoga a bit too ambitious for my ailing back, it was a bit too chaotic for my restless mind. After all, if I wanted hectic, I could go home, where the baby would be crying and the phone would be ringing. The calm of the shala proved to be a welcome tonic. Not that it was easy tapping into my inner peace. In those early yoga classes, I'd lay on my back in Savasana, or Corpse pose, and my mind would neurotically chatter and smart aleck its way through what was supposed to be a meditation. It was like being trapped in an elevator with Woody Allen. Slowly, something changed. Not only was my back feeling better, pretty soon I found I'd begun to listen in class and had absorbed teachings about the eight limbs. When I left the studio, I felt, in some indefinable way, better. Not just physically, but in a way I couldn't put my finger on. I experienced something less than transcendence and more than silence. A kind of concentrated awareness. The tiny hairs on my forearms stood as if electrified. For the first time that I could remember, I'd experienced a connection to something outside of and larger than myself. When I went back out into the world, it was usually with a serene energy that was new to me. I felt refreshed but not over stimulated, kind of like a human breath mint. This calmness often migrated into my relationships -- with my husband, with my 9-month-old, with the person ahead of me in the grocery line counting pennies and making me late. My evolution from skeptic to convert has made me question whether the sides in the so-called yoga wars are really so far apart; even if they truly exist. Under the surface, most practices I've seen are not exclusively spiritual or physical; instead, these qualities tend to sit cheek by jowl, sometimes awkwardly, but together nonetheless. No matter what a practitioner's intention, under the auspices of a skilled teacher, students can have a direct experience of their very core, which will transcend ideas of religion and complicated metaphysical doctrine. Indeed, even if you do yoga just for the physical rewards (which studies indicate may include lower blood pressure, better circulation, and improved pain tolerance), you may be getting more spiritual benefit than you realize. When people get on their mat, all the stress and energy that's been locked in their heads moves through their body and is released. That is the power and magic of physical practice. This creates a new kind of listening, which bypasses people's usual thinking. Physical practice is inherently spiritual. Ultimately, I believe, this is yoga's great lesson: How we move can transform how we feel, think, and experience the world. Call it spiritual. Call it anything that won't make you want to run screaming from the room. Either way, yoga is an incomparable way to connect bodies and minds. Hindu or Christian, purist or jock; if you practice, yoga belongs to you.

Source: Whole Living Magazine

The Chocolate Meditation – Perfect For Mindfulness Day

The Chocolate Meditation – Perfect For Mindfulness Day

Oct 17, 2011

"Time to Meditate while eating a bar of chocolate..." At first glance the Chocolate Meditation sounds a little frivolous and self-indulgent. While it is certainly enjoyable, it also has a deeper value. It helps you reconnect with your senses, which is of vital importance in our fast-paced and frantic world. Connecting with your senses is one of the core benefits of Mindfulness meditation so anything that aids this process is of immense value. The chocolate meditation: Choose some chocolate - either a type that you've never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. It might be dark and flavoursome, organic or fair-trade or, perhaps, cheap and trashy. The important thing is to choose a type you wouldn't normally eat or that you consume only rarely. Here goes: • Open the packet. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you. • Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny. • Pop it in your mouth. See if it's possible to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavours. See if you can sense some of them. • If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment. • After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat. • Repeat this with one other piece. How do you feel? Is it different from normal? Did the chocolate taste better than if you'd just eaten it at a normal breakneck pace? Do you feel fuller that normal, more satisfied?

Source: Psychology Today

What's So Funny?

What's So Funny?

Oct 17, 2011

Neither had I. So when I went to my first laughter-yoga class, I felt as if I wasn't getting the joke. I dutifully joined the other students, ages 20 to 90, in such exercises as clapping while uttering loud, rhythmic reps of "Ho ho! Ha ha ha!" and cracking up while pretending to be on a phone. I hated it. But I have to admit that after 30 minutes or so, I started to feel a little less stressed. The irony of laughter yoga — there are more than 400 clubs in the U.S. dedicated to this mind-body therapy — is that jokes are a no-no, because humor is subjective. Participants are led through laughing exercises interspersed with deep breathing. (The breathing and the wind-down period at the end of class are the only parts borrowed from traditional yoga — no mats or athleticism required.) Feeling awkward is O.K. Just jumping in is what matters. "We say, 'Fake it till you make it,'" says Vishwa Prakash, the founder of New York City's YogaLaff and the instructor of my class. "After a while, it becomes infectious. And it is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves."

Source: Time Magazine U.S.