Loving Oneself is Loving Others

Let the above serve as a mantra for your daily experience, for a person must first love himself before he can love another. This Love is akin to a fine cut diamond in which rays of light reflect back in a dizzying array of harmonious fractals. To love oneself is to love All of you and to Live that truth. It is not enough to merely love with thoughts… actions must follow. True love for oneself opens the door to true love for others. Because, quite simply, if you can’t love yourself, what makes you think you can love a stranger? If you can’t accept your errors and Grow from them, how can you possibly forgive another for his? Thus, loving oneself is loving others, is loving oneself, is loving others… now substitute oneself with myself. Loving myself is loving others, is loving myself, is loving others.

There are many ways we can interpret the above declaration. Let us begin with the physical. Each of us has a body. To love our body is to treat our body like the gift it is. Eating nutritious foods, being wary of alcohol and smoke and other drugs, exercising, spending time in nature, and deep breathing—all of which are simple choices that demonstrate you care about your body. Giving a self-massage, telling your body that you love it, thanking your body, telling yourself that you Love You. These are simple, yet powerful, actions that reach deep into the psyche to communicate Intention. What intention? That is for you to decide. However, I gather your intention is similar to the mantra, otherwise you’d likely not be reading this. Each of us has a Path to Walk and each of us would have an easier time Walking the Path if we started with treating our body like we love it. The body is our vehicle in this dimension. A gift from Mother Earth.

Mentally, loving myself means “I Love every step I’ve taken, every thought that has crossed my mind, from the lowest to the highest. The darkest to the lightest.” Because even what we perceive to be bad is in effect Good. Everything we do leads us back to Source. The worst of offenses create opportunities for people to join hands. If you truly want to Grow, you have to love everything you have done. Acceptance and forgiveness. These are expressions of Love.

Love is free. So says a friend of mind. Love is everywhere, even if you don’t want to admit it, Love is there. Love is here. Love is in you. It is in me. It is in the sky and the valleys and All in between. We only need to pause long enough to remember this, to feel this energetic reality. It is the feeling of warmth, a release of pressure, and realization of one’s connection with Creation.

Take a moment to do this Meditation. Fold your hands in your lap, however is comfortable. Sit with your feet flat and back straight. Close your eyes. Breath slowly and deeply. Six seconds in. Six seconds out. Imagine a person you love dearly. Feel that energy in your heart center. Spread the feeling to your head, back to your heart, down to your gut, and back to your heart. Pause at each to become Aware of the sensations. Now imagine someone in your life that bothers you and carry that feeling to their image. Stay with them until the Love is Strong. Move that feeling to your head, to your heart, down to the gut, and back to the heart.

How do you feel?

Thanks to Gloria for the circular mantra!

Sending good vibes,

Alex

The Age of Aquarius

Earth is presently undergoing a cosmic shift of energy. The Aquarian Age is dawning and change is afoot. The beginning of a new 2000-year cosmic cycle. We are leaving the age of Pisces, the start of which was marked by the birth and death of a particularly famous individual, who is commonly associated with the constellation’s symbol—a fish. The year 2012 did not mark the end of the world, merely the death of an age, and the birth of another. What does this mean for us? Aquarius is marked by a double wave. This is of course significant. A wave is energy. A wave is a frequency. It is a vibration. Right now, the world’s foremost quantum physicists are confirming ancient knowledge. We are, in fact, waves and our thoughts really do leave our heads to interact with our surroundings. Ahh… so it signifies enlightenment? But, Aquarius has two waves. Duality. Two types of Enlightenment? After all, the Occidental and Oriental attach different meaning to the word. The former being Scientism and the latter Spiritual.

What does it matter, this Astrologic chatter? Look around you. A giant awakening of human consciousnes is occurring. Questions are being asked. Answers, or more likely Directions, are being given. This is because the answer to the Question is always Within. For the ultimate question—Why—is unique to the individual and is best discovered through the sacred inner inquiry.

What are we here to do but express to the fullest our innermost colors? We are who we are. Unless of course we aren’t ourselves. If you live your day to day life caught up with concerns over what others will think of you if you do this or do that, if you wear this or wear that, listen to this or listen to that, sing on the sidewalk, or hum to yourself at work—if you hold yourself back from expressing what you wish to express…then you are not being you. If you live your whole life in this manner—always coloring within the lines—then you quite simply have not existed. You were not being you. You did not exist. You lived without Living.

The shift in energy is bringing in an energy of Awareness. This is the Time of the Rainbow Children—the Generation whom will lead Humanity to a greater understanding of Harmony and Recover the Sacred. Earth has been waiting. She waits patiently, at least as patient as can be expected, for our People to remember what it means to be Compassionate. To remember what it means to Lead with Compassion—to take responsibility for the Growth of others and to care for Mother Earth. We are all connected and people the world over are Realizing something has been missing from their Life. Something doesn’t feel right. We’ve been disconnected from Source. People are noticing we have become Separate from our surroundings. Separate from the plants, the birds and the bees, separate from Each Other. Sin. Sin means without, separate from. Instead of feeling each other, we use our cell phones. We text rather than speak over the phone. We email rather than write a letter. We go the bar to drink beers and watch other people play sports while checking our phones to see where other people are drinking beers and watching other people play sports. We drink more. We smoke weed to chill out or to escape. Always we look for the convenience. Make it easy for us. Take a pill. Separate myself from myself. But who are you?

Noticing these patterns is Awareness. Awareness ushers in energy. Energy follows Attention. Change is waiting for you; waiting for you to say Ok. Now is now. Now is the day. The day of Me. Because you are me. I am you. You are the me, inside of you.

Sending good vibes,

Tall Alex

Abracadabra

Working with the Sub-Conscious through Abracadabra:

Speech and the Magik of Intention.

We’ve all heard that word of words…Abracadabra. Oft Associated with Hollywood magic and witches and wizards, what on Earth does this word even mean? Something silly perhaps? An old folk superstition?

Abracadabra: As I speak, I create.

Turns out, the word embodies a core gift of humanity. The expansion of sound applied to the multifaceted dimension of speech. We are gifted with vocal cords and the accompanying body circuitry to produce a wonderous array of vibrations aka frequencies, and, by using thoughts, to connect these vocal cord vibrations with emotions to facilitate communications. We do this on an extraordinary level unmatched by our fellow creatures, thanks to our bodies and the gift of free will. In other words, a thought can be turned into speech, and speech is a sound, and sound is a vibration which moves through space like the ripples caused by a stone falling through the surface of a lake.

Let’s expand this.

To speak is to take an emotion/idea/thought and precisely transform it into nuanced sound. And to then project that energy outward, all sound vibrations are forms of energy, in manner which is readily understood, such as an established language

To speak is to have an intention. You don’t speak willy nilly. There is a purpose behind your sounds. Whether it is to express gratitude or ask for a glass of water, there is a reason you have put your vocal cords into action.

Ah ha! An Intention! You want something to happen. There is a purpose.

And the ripples of water expanding outward from their origin: Our speech expands outwards. Touching everything. Communicating with everything seen and unseen. Interacting with the totality of our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies.

So, if I say, “I want to be happy”. I’ve just created a vibration which is rippling through time infinite—communicating with myself and with Source—the infinite cosmic consciousness. And the law of cosmic attraction, energies attract like energies, means that my declaration “I want to be happy” is telling the universe that I want whatever it is that I believe makes me happy.

This brings us back to abracadabra. As I speak, I create.

The vibration of speech ripples through Creation and communicates your intention which spurs its manifestation.

Within the practice of Yoga, we use intentions to structure our perceptions and to communicate with the Universe. We set an intention before practice with the hope that it guides our practice. We set an intention upon waking every morning with the hope that it attracts what we want. We harness the power of speech to communicate with our entire being as part of our effort to free our belief structure from constricting habits and cultural programming.

Have you ever wanted to remember a phone number or a message and repeated it aloud to yourself, in an effort to remember? Have you ever picked yourself out of a bad mood by noticing the brighter side if life or by smiling and saying, I’m happy? Have you ever exclaimed, “I’m so pissed off!” and actually felt less pissed off afterwards? No, of course you didn’t.

Abracadabra.

Good vibes,

Alex

Musings on the Vibrations of Creation

I was sitting on a couch in Asheville when the urge to pick up a pencil and write took over and here’s what poured forth.

We are here to Journey through the Halls of time. An experience that exists to create opportunity for Spiritual Growth. We live amongst a web of interconnected Spirit which is ever-vibrating to the present moment. This web is a river of sound waves and we are ripples within this vast web of ocean Spirit.

Cosmic infinity penetrates us and sustains us and directs us to ourselves, the self seen in yourself, seen in myself, seen in All and seen in No-Thing. We come together to Earth to experience the music of this dimension. It is no accident that I write these words or that you read these words. Where do these words hail from? From the infinite togetherness. From the threads weaving together my life strands with Mother Earth and with your life strands. Taken together, these words create a meaning—a vibration—a sound that seen alone is but one note, but in actuality is an instrumental measure within Spirit’s Symphony.

Our lives are a creation of sound within a greater song.

Our bodies are instruments in this Cosmic Orchestra.

And what one does, another feels. If I sing my song, you can hear it. Likewise, I can hear your song. In fact, this web is one Cosmic Chorus, born out of creative and sustained by compassion. Our songs are Unique and the musical energy yearns to Grow—to a higher frequency—to return to the space between the Stars from which all sound comes.

But before that eventuality transforms our reality, we must cultivate harmony. Harmonize our soul songs with the Source Symphony surrounding our existence. Becoming our Being. At which point we may realize there was no Journey. There is only the sound of music.

Good vibes,
Alex

Over the mountain. Around the mountain.

Over the mountain, around the mountain.

Life can throw some wild shit your way. Somewhere within all of it is a lesson to learn from. Sometimes the lesson isn’t what you thought it would be. Sometimes it is. How can anyone know?

Take a moment to consider how you feel. I mean how you really feel, not just if you are momentarily happy, but go deep. Go down to your muscles and bones. Does your body feel tight? Do you feel pressure? Feel slow or lethargic? Do you feel like the weight of the world is pressing in on you?

This is a complicated world we live in. Lots of structure where there shouldn’t be any. Some places have not enough structure. People can easily get into a situation where they find themselves underwater. Stuck in a place where they can’t breathe. We want to help, but help isn’t wanted. We want to stay, but staying makes it worse. Or we want to move on, but should we? Sometimes the lesson is to persevere, but the lesson can also be to choose a new path. Perhaps one is walking up the mountain when there is cut nearby which will be the easier route. We owe ourselves the courtesy of the occasional pause to gather and consider whether we are being stubborn or brave.  

Breathe into the moment. Visualize the alternatives. Feel the other path(s). Do you feel light? Like you could fly? Happy and spacious?

Notice everything. Notice if you feel pulled in any direction.

Be with your breath and you’ll know where to be.

Sending good vibes,

Alex

Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) heals and restores balance to your physical and spiritual bodies.

It was Winter 2017 that Gloria and I learned of a TRE modality workshop to be held at our favorite Charleston yoga studio, Mission Yoga. Mission’s Creative Director, Kelly Jean told us she was personally excited for the workshop because the modality is said to trigger an autonomic function of the body’s nervous system that literally shakes out stored trauma and stress related pain. Kelly Jean is a certified-Rolfer—Rolfing is a bodywork/massage modality that aims to release and realign the body. She knows what she’s doing and her interest in TRE was plenty to peak our interest.

 Over the last three years I became aware that my body was getting tighter despite the deepening of my yoga practice. The emotional stress that comes with guiding people down life-threatening white water was clearly taking its toll on my body. I also opened up to the belief that our mindset is directly linked to general body health, specifically to flexibility and recovery. This led to experimenting with deep relaxation and muscle control techniques that enhance your ability to consciously feel your body. In sum, my experiences showed me that stretching and breathing can release tightness and that, as you gain space in your body, traumatic memories can rise up into your thoughts. Intellectually, I knew this was all possible, but truly I was only dipping my feet into the water.

Glo and me agreed, we needed to return for the workshop.

I began researching TRE before we were even back in Conway and got the feeling that TRE would be an invaluable tool for healing. The workshop was well worth it.

Ok, so what is this TRE?

The founder, David Berceli, developed TRE from his experiences working in war zones. He noticed when the bombs began dropping, the children all dropped to the ground as their body succumbed to intense tremors—their muscular system shaking all over. Berceli also noticed that the adults were largely immune from this effect. He then connected the children’s behavior to animals observed in the wild: Animals that survive a near-death experience will go to a quiet place, lay down, and begin to tremor. Next, he realized that the human adults must be consciously and/or unconsciously preventing the shaking. During their growth they must have been influenced to stop shaking. I think we can all agree that, in our society, shaking is often considered a weakness and any weakness is readily exploited.  We’re supposed to be tough and independent individuals that rise and fall on our own merits in a system where only the fittest survive, no? Darwin isn’t the only theory of evolution, but that’s another blog post. Knowing he was onto something, Berceli developed a series of exercises designed to encourage the body to engage the autonomic nervous system’s natural tremor release, which he calls Trauma Release Exercises.

How it works:

First-timers are taught to moderately engage the core, psoas, and legs with the intention to stress the body with static stretch postures (think squats, lunges, bridge, and butterfly). Key themes are grounding and a sense of security with heavy emphasis on relaxing and acceptance. This is my body. This is natural. This is healing. This is my body’s natural healing process, and so forth. After the final butterfly stretch, the body is ready to begin the shaking; all that’s left is for you to relax, shake, and rest for about ten minutes before standing up and continuing your day.

The first time, my legs shook left and right and vibrated and tremored and afterwards I felt a tremendous release of energy followed by a serene and calm sense of self. My gut told me this was what I’ve been looking for.

How long does it take?  We spent around twenty minutes centering ourselves and stretching/engaging the body. Anyway, you stretch and engage the psoas regoin, a 5-7 effort on a 10 scale is sufficient to spark the shaking. First-timers are encouraged to follow the prescribe routine but once you familiarize yourself with the process you can let your body tell you how to warm up. Shaking times are greatly dependent on your own body. It is advised to shake only so long as you feel it is good, and up to 15 minutes a session. The instructor said a strong practice is two or three shakes a week.

Where it gets really interesting is where and when the body shakes. The body knows what you are trying to do and will ease you into the process. This means that people shake differently. How stressed you are, how much stress you got stored, how relaxed you are, and how willing you are to accept the process, all determine the intensity of the shakes.

For the first five months my body only shook in the legs and mostly just thighs. I felt calm afterward and always got a brief but beautiful feeling of release deep inside my head. These early shake sessions were often between 7-15 minutes in length and though I wanted to shake it all out all at once, it was clear my body knew better and it was going to take its sweet time. I practiced 1-3 times a week for those first five or six months. At some point, I realized that my shaking sessions were better if I did two five minute sessions versus one ten minute. Next, I had the feeling to shake a little bit every day till my body told me to take a break. This lasted about seven days at which point my neck started to tremor—that felt very good inside my head. Then my right arm started shaking, usually in the second session of the day. That brought a very very good feeling in my head. Then my waist and psoas started to shake. Then my shoulders. Then my chest. The feeling of release and space in my deep head and body, occurring during and after every session, is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It just feels gooooooood.

But what all is really going on?

Your body, sometimes at the behest of your subconscious mind, perceives an event as stressful or traumatic and reacts by storing the stress as toxins and knotting up the muscle/fascia. But your body also knows how to shake that stuff out, except cultural images of expected behavior interrupt the process. TRE reawakens the process. But because we haven’t been shaking out the stress, lots of stress has built up. And the more tightness we have, aka the more stored stress, the less open our bodies are. The less efficient our bodies work. The harder it becomes to release emotion. The harder it is to cry. The greater likelihood we lose our temper.

it’s like a balloon filled with water; the more water, the more likely the balloon will pop.

Shaking also repairs physical injuries by stimulating recovery from the inside where the body knows best. Research suggests that old injuries can keep patterns of stress “alive” in the body that inhibit full recovery if the body has not been allowed to heal.

So…

When we shake, we are quite literally tearing up all the micro knots and whatnot that have built up which also releases the toxins. Drinking lots of water will help flush them all out.  

When we shake, we become intimately familiar with our bodies and that increased feeling translates to a greater awareness of self which strengthens the body and spirit connection. I’m now able to notice how my neck tightens with every sip of caffeine—increased muscular tension is said to be a side effect of caffeine.

When we shake, it means that one has relaxed the ego. Therefore, the increased familiarity and comfort within one’s body that is gained by intentional TRE practice also increases mindfulness. You have to be present in order for the mechanism to engage. You have to be mindful.

There is ample research on the modality with more occurring every year. I recommend the book “Shake it off Naturally” if you want to dive deep into the research and practice.

There’s also a bunch of fascinating research into muscular and fascia tightness and how they correlate with a person’s voice—constricting the vocal cords and/or influencing a person’s ability to control their voice which affects the emotional content of the voice. See work by Juan Carlos Garaizabal Jorge for more on that.

Don’t shake before a strenuous activity. You will be extra loose and risk a body misalignment. I knew this, but strenuous is relative so it was only a matter of time before I found my personal boundaries…One day I shook in the early morning and after an afternoon nap I went into the garden to harvest a patch of lamb’s quarters. We wanted to replace this particular patch with sweet potatoes so I yanked them out roots and all. Afterwards and the next morning I noticed my lower body ached. Glo gave me a look over and determined my sacrum was angled to the left. Luckily, Glo knows what she’s doing too, and she soon prodded me back into alignment

I could go on and on, but now’s where my talk ends and your search begins.

Good vibes!

Alex Perryman

Walking the Path

Life. Beauty. Power. Struggle. Pain. Love. Serenity. Bliss. Terror. Ecstasy. Fear. Strength.

We live moment to moment yet we often struggle against moments past and moments yet to come. By nature, we humans are intense creatures and capable of great presence. A human anchored in the moment is a superhuman. There is nothing we cannot achieve if we believe it is achievable. Nothing we cannot get if we but want it. Our perceptions create our own reality. This is an awesome bit of magic that can create awe inspiring feats of any color. This magic can be used to better our world or to enslave us.


Patterns are part of this. We often live in patterns. Habits, too. Things we like to do. Things we don’t like to do. Things that look like us. Things that look different. Sometimes we get caught up in these patterns. If it’s a good pattern (what is good?) then we like the pattern. If it’s a bad pattern we sometimes like it anyway. Patterns can be hard to change. Or are they? Are we led to believe that patterns are hard to change? What if we were told that patters are easy to change? That patterns are easy to break? What if instead of being told that Old habits Die hard, that old habits die easy? How would that affect our perceptions? How would that affect our ability to change? If our beliefs set reality, then there is truly no end to our ability to create and manifest.

But what do we manifest? Good or bad stuff? Who is to say what is good or what is bad? There are a few common ideas:

·         The universe has both Good and Bad.

·         The universe has no Good and no Bad.

·         The universe is all Good because what we perceive to be Bad are actually lessons that create Good.

How do we know which is most correct? Who cares anyway? Should we care? Probably. Yes.

I like the third option. The universe is all Good. All paths lead to the same Good Beginning. An event is really just an event. A moment is just a moment. The glass is half full or half empty? What is your perception? Where did that perception grow from? Your family? Your soul? Society or School? Are we here to grow or are we here to decay? Is God good? Is it God or Goddess? Male, female, both? The simplest answer is probably it huh? Goddess/God/All that is. The Spirit which moves in all things. Moving us All toward Good. Giving us everything we need to learn what we are here to learn. To advance. Sometimes one step back and three steps forward.

Everything is inherently Good. We are Here because we Wanted to be Here. Best to make the most of it. Learn where we can learn. Love the life we live. Believe in ourselves and believe in our power to create our lives. I’ve heard that the only true power that humans have is the ability to pray. That through prayer, we can create. That the Spirit hears our prayers and responds. That both fear and hope are prayers of a sort and both attract the Great Spirit’s energies. Anything else a human creates is really just taking something already in existence and changing it. But our prayers are unique. They come from our soul. They are power. They are magic. When we Pray, we speak to the All. When we meditate, we Listen to the All. That’s the not so secret, secret.

Sending good vibes,

Alex

The importance of Accepting yourself while recognizing You are Deeper than the sum of your Thoughts and Feelings.

We all have thoughts and feelings. Some thoughts lead to feelings and some feelings lead to thoughts. These thoughts and feelings are vibrations. They can be low vibes or high vibes and therefore they can lower or rise in frequency.

the higher the frequency, the happier the vibe.

Thoughts form in the mind, an entity involving the brain but not limited to, and because a thought is an energy wave, a vibration, every thought moves through the universe like a wave, and like a wave whose fluid motion affects other waves it touches, every thought wave which originates in the mind moves throughout the whole being, both physical and spiritual, and affects the vibrations of All.

Feelings are the same.

A feeling of joy, such as one created when you see the sun for the first moment of a new day, sends specific vibrations throughout the person and beyond. You see the sun and you feel happy and joyful, these vibes move through your body and work to stimulate more joy throughout the body’s tissues, bones, muscles, organs, and energy centers. Many of those happy vibes extend beyond you—the human body emits frequencies and electro-magnetic waves—and move along through the Great Spirit to touch All.

these joyful vibrations attract more joyful vibrations and support other like vibrations which culminate in higher vibrations. have you ever stood near someone who felt so happy that you felt better?

have you ever stood near someone who was in such a foul mood that you felt they were bringing you down?

The human experience flourishes with love. This means that to be at our best, we must embrace, we must love, the totality of our experience. Every thought and feeling you have should feel your unconditional love. Even the thoughts we might label as bad, such as judging another for a perceived slight, should be accepted and loved for the lesson freely offered.

heck, even the Idea—the perception—that there is Bad and Good is really just your Thought and not necessarily a Truth. The Truth is that your perception creates reality. Collective (multiple persons) perceptions also create reality.

For Example: I am walking along and notice a person in front of me toss their coffee cup onto the ground. In Response a series of thoughts appear in my mind

“Ahh man. He should know better. Doesn’t he realize that littering is harmful? Idiot. If only he was aware of how we are all connected, perhaps he wouldn’t litter. Perhaps he’ll notice me pick it up and next time he’ll wait for a trash can.”

Some of those thoughts are not very flattering, but regardless of the thought, each deserves to be accepted. Why? Because if I were to judge myself harshly for having thought the guy was an idiot, then that self-judgment (itself a lowering vibration) would attract more low vibrations (possibly more judgments) and even act to lower the vibrations of everything it touches as it flows from my mind through my body and beyond. Ignoring the thoughts or cursing myself for having them will only aid in creating more of the same. My mood would lower and perhaps that guy would feel it and even resent me and encourage him to litter again, thus the cycle continues. And maybe my low mood stays with me long enough till I reach my destination and affects the next person.

if it affects you than it affects them, and if it affects them than it affects you. this is doubly important when you accept that sickness and disease is a byproduct of one’s thoughts—thoughts with low vibrations.

 If I accept my thoughts and love them for the lessons they offer—remembering that the perception of littering being harmful is in itself no more than a vibration—remembering that perceptions are largely crafted by environment—remembering that he and me are one and the same—remembering that we are both spiritual beings here to experience Love and Brotherhood—the higher vibration of love will interact with the Others and Growth will be achieved. Growth follows acceptance.

the next time, perhaps the “idiot” thought will not come.  

The resulting change in likelihood of a given response to a given situation is important because it demonstrates that we can change our thought/feeling patterns. If we can change these patterns then clearly we are above our patterns. In other words, our patterns do not define us, rather we define our patterns.

we can take this further—our genes do not define us, rather we define our genes. Our thoughts (read: beliefs) tell how our body which genes to read. did you ever want to stay home “sick” from school so bad that when  your mother came to check your temperature, you actually gave yourself a slight fever?

In the above scenario, you wanted to be sick enough that you believed (you thought) you’d be sick when your mom came to check on you, and your body obliged. You told your body how to perceive reality.

We are more—we are deeper—than our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, we are not human because we think or feel, but we think and feel because we are human. Thoughts and feelings are akin to tools. We can choose to have joyful thoughts or we can choose to be sad. Both offer growth.

the key to all of this is awareness. A willful awareness of oneself will always bring growth.

And sure, patterns exist. Especially if you believe the pattern exists. And yes, environments (society/culture/neighborhoods) are largely responsible for the patterns you act out. Being told “you’ll never amount to anything” probably instilled a pattern of failure that you are destined to outgrow. Life can be tough. On the flipside, being told “you can be/do anything you want to be/do” likely set a pattern of success. Life can be easy.

However, the existence of these patterns does not imply that we are slaves to our thoughts or that we Are our thoughts. Rather, it is Because we can consciously change our thoughts and thereby change our patterns that we Know we exist beyond thought.

And because there is no limit to our ability to think or feel, it is Clear that Our Ability to Grow is Infinite.

Sending good vibes,
Alex

 

If you want to see more, check out these two lectures:
Bruce Lipton, Mind over Matter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnFCz6UCakk
Rob Williams, Psyche-K, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRa8K4f4PHc

Breath work for holistic health, from Kundalini Yoga and Wim Hof Method—for the skeptic.

Breathing is everything. Ok, to be more authentic, my experiences have shown me that conscious breathing is the most important thing you can do to kick start mindfulness. Mindfulness being important because it leads to an awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings and the more aware one is of oneself the happier one is. The happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your own skin, the better you can express who you are. That is the key. This takes on an even deeper meaning because I believe we are spiritual beings living out a human experience, and an experience that can only truly be fulfilled if we all live the most true and full expression of ourselves.

The best part about conscious breathing is that anyone can practice it, anytime they want. In this case, when I use the term breath work, it is referring to breathing exercises (usually done seated on the ground or chair), which you can also simply call meditations. 

There are numerous scientific studies that use mechanical computers to monitor changes in brain activity during meditation, and eventually I will delve into a few of them for you. Until then, if you are interested in reading the technical jargon then I highly encourage you research it. The information being gleaned through these computers is a fascinating contemporary confirmation of thousands of years old yogic science. However, all the reading in the world won’t give you a real experience which is really the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Reading will get you the knowledge, but sitting down and giving it a go will create the moment and bring wisdom.

There are two meditations which I feel compelled to share today, one from Kundalini yoga, which is among the most ancient yogic branches, and the 21st century Wim Hof method. These are part of my daily yoga practice and I credit them with clearing my body—especially my mind—of all the tar clogging me up from the drug abuse of my twenties. I’d say I feel like I did when I was a kid, back before the drug addiction which sent me into a downward spiral of self-loathing, yada yada… but really and truly, I feel better than I’ve ever felt, kid-self or not.

If you do these meditations in the morning, you will be prepping your mind and body for the day’s challenges. It’s like stretching and rolling out on a foam roller before a long run through the mountains; The little stresses you put on your leg muscles loosen them up for the up and down demands of the trail.

The power and energy inherent in every breath we take is not to be underestimated. With that said, all the power of these exercises will do little for you if you don’t treat them as such. Our expectations—which are essentially thoughts—contain energy and that energy creates our reality. If you expect to fail, you will fail. But if you expect success, you will succeed. You’ve got to believe! 

Alternate Nostril Breathing (and variations for advanced interest)

Throughout the day, our body changes up which nostril we breathe most through. This breath work focuses the energy through specific nostrils which balances the energy channels within the body. It can be done for a few minutes or up to 150 minutes but always increase the length of time slowly, adding a few minutes every other day or as you feel is appropriate.  You are you own best teacher.

·         Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your knees below your hips, with the objective that no muscles be working to hold you erect.

o   If you are seated in a chair, sit on a firm cushion to raise your butt a bit.

o   If you are seated Indian style, sit your butt up on enough firm cushions or blankets that your knees are below your hips. OR Sit back on your heels, maybe with a cushion between your legs to raise your butt off your heels.

·         Close your eyes

·         Lengthen through the back of your neck.

·         Rest your hands in a comfortable position, either in your lap or on your knees.

·         Bring your awareness to your whole body. Notice how you feel. Notice any areas that feel relaxed or constricted.

·         Notice your breath. Notice the length of the inhale and exhale. Notice the depth.

·         Block your right nostril with the index finger of your right hand. Inhale deeply for a count of four.

·         Move that finger to block your left nostril. Exhale for a count of four.

·         Continue for five minutes.

·         Play around with increasing the length of the inhales and exhales. Play around with adding breath retention. Breath retention is when you inhale and hold the breath for a period of time before exhaling. Breath suspension is when you exhale and hold the breath out for a period of time before inhaling.

·         After the last cycle: release pressure on the left nostril and breathe in deeply through both open nostrils. Hold the breath for ten seconds. Exhale. Begin normal breathing.

·         Notice how you feel.

Intermediate practice (Instructions are same with one exception.)

Instead of closing your eyes, gaze at the tip of your nose. According to Kundalini science, this will stimulate the pituitary gland which produces critical hormones that regulate your body. It is said that alcohol, cocaine, cigarettes, adderall, pain killers, xanax, and even marijuana, all interfere with the pituitary gland. Your body cannot be healthy and whole if its glands are malfunctioning.

This is a strong exercise and should be respected. Increase the time slowly. For example, beginning with three minutes a day and increasing by a three more minutes every week.

Advanced--Sodarshan Chakra Kriya

This is said to be the most powerful yogic kriya. A kriya is a series of postures, breath work, and/or vocal work that are designed to achieve a specific and simultaneous change in the physical, mental, and spiritual body. This kriya works. It cleans out the body and especially cleans out the brain. I did this kriya for 70 days straight and worked up to 60 minute sessions. It is powerful and intense.

 If you have abused drugs, this will rebalance your brain. After the drugs, I suffered from mood swings and moments of depression. I now feel that my bad attitude was brought about because my body could not regulate my hormones as it was supposed to. Everything was off. Our bodies are finely tuned instruments and, like a guitar where if one string is off in a chord than the whole chord is off, if your energy meridians and glands are out of whack then you’re out of tune.

During my initial 70 day run, I felt enormous heat building up and dissipating all along my spine and deep into my brain, and for the first three weeks I sweated profusely while practicing. This is real stuff.

The best resource for this kriya is from the organization founded by the man, Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the United States.

https://www.3ho.org/kundalini-yoga/pranayam/pranayam-techniques/sodarshan-chakra-kriya

Note: I enjoy practicing this before the Wim Hof Method as it balances your energy channels before you supercharge them with Wim Hof Method.

 

Wim Hof Method

I was very skeptical of this breathing when it was first brought to my attention. It was described to be tripping off oxygen deprivation and that seemed…unnecessary. This was before my experiments with yogic pranayama and meditation and perhaps it wasn’t explained too well but more likely I simply wasn’t ready to consider breathwork as anything but boring. Fast forward two years when I finally gave it a go and I’ll say everyone should give it a chance.

In a nutshell:

  1. Power Breath Breathe deeply thirty to forty times while exhaling softly—this takes in more oxygen (read: more prana/life energy/chi) than you let out. You are supercharging your physical body with energy.
  2. Breathe Suspension On your last exhale, suspend the breath for as long as you can, then...
  3. Recovery Breath Inhale deeply, retain the breath for 10-20 seconds, exhale and...

Breathe normally, do another round (up to six or till you feel you have done enough), or sit still and meditate.

Yes. There is a lot going on in your body during all this.

The extra oxygen increases the PH of your blood. This is good because most of us have blood that is too acidic. What lowers your PH? Depression, stress, anxiety, pollution, cheese, animal flesh, cigarettes, any vinegar other than apple cider vinegar…basically a lot of things. When we feel stressed out, that lowers our PH, which makes us feel more stressed out, but if we begin the day with a higher PH we do better against those things which lower PH. Acidic blood also lowers your bodies efficiency, reducing recovery time from effort, and reducing your bodies effectiveness at combating disease. Sure, you could have too high PH, but it would be pretty hard to do so with this breath work and your body would tell you to stop.

Wim Hof says that when you hold your breath for longer than 1:30 seconds, parts of your brains begin to quiet, you aren’t breathing anymore so your brain begins to conserve energy. And when you breathe again, your brain kicks into full gear with a boost of energy throughout. It feels pretty good. Part of this is a bigger than usual release of adrenaline, which lowers your body’s immune response—this last bit, which I will soon expand on, is one of the most fascinating effects of the breathwork.

By doing this breathwork, you are consciously influencing your sympathetic nervous system and immune system. Most Western doctors would say this impossible. Most Eastern monks would say they’ve been doing this for thousands of years. Wim Hof has been injected with endotoxins and has neutralized it within 15 minutes and then taught 12 people to do the same.

On the yogic side—holding your breath balances out the male/female energy. Not breathing creates an opportunity to face your fear of losing control. Your mind/body wants to breathe, but you choose not to, then it becomes uncomfortable, maybe you get a little stressed out, but you hold firm. Your mind/body Wanting to breathe is a male energy and by holding off you strengthen your female energy.

This is extra good for Americans because, let’s face it, the rest of the world knows we are prone to wanting to be in control.

Instructions from Wim Hof:

https://www.wimhofmethod.com/practice-the-method

Here are a few more thoughts and tips:

·         This is my favorite breath work before my morning meditation.

·         I do this breath work every morning, right after a little alternate nostril breathing to balance the energy.

·         I find that my body has a much larger energy reserve to tap from, even ten hours after the breath work.

·         I notice that my mind is quieter and my presence is greater within any given moment during the day.

·         For your first session, I recommend laying down, flat on the floor. Do three rounds.

·         The next day, do up to six rounds.

·         When you feel the gasp reflex to breathe…BREATHE. If you don’t, you risk blacking out and hitting your head on something. I know this, because one time I decided to hold my breath past the gasp reflex. Egoic competition against myself got the better of me. I momentarily blacked out, started convulsing, fell off my zafu and hit my head on the wall. During all of this, my mind was still telling my body not to breathe. It wasn’t until I shook my head clear of the wall bump that I realized I was still not breathing (I was, however, still convulsing). Gloria was not pleased with me.

·         Always listen to the teacher within.


That’s about all I got for now, but there are many, many podcasters out there who’ve interviewed Wim Hof so the sky’s the limit for audio and video interviews to satisfy your interest.

Vice Documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaMjhwFE1Zw

UPDATE:

I no longer practice Wim Hof breathing. I have found other breathing patterns which feel better to me for energizing the body and which will be discussed in a future blog post. Until I do, you can check out Kundalini Yoga's segmented breath at  www.3ho.com .

NOTE: My statements have not been verified by any United States Government organizations.


Yoga sans studio, off the mat, and in the real world.

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When I walked into my first yoga class, I walked in with preconceptions, drawn from pop culture exposure, that told me yoga was a bunch of girls stretching and sweating in tight stretchy clothing. It took me years to realize that yoga is much more than stretching out on a rubber mat. So what is yoga? To practice yoga is to cultivate an inner stillness that allows your true identity, that of a spiritual being connected to all creation through an infinite consciousness, to emerge. We are all connected to an infinite (universal) consciousness and to be a yogi means you have set an intention to recognize that truth in your day to day life.

 

"Yoga is a union of the individual unit consciousness with the infinite consciousness." Yogi Bhajan

 

That inner stillness is most readily reached by intentionally minding your breath. Ancient cultures the world over  recognized that your breath is the most powerful link to your soul. That's why when you enter a yoga studio, the teacher is constantly reminding you to be mindful of your breath. Consciously modulating the breath has an immediate affect on the mind and for that matter on the whole body. Hence, the buzzword: mindfulness. It wasn't just ancient India that discovered this. You know the word Aloha? When I visited the Big Island, a friend explained to me that Aloha means "the breath of God within me recognizes the breath of God within you". Hawaiians believe that where breath goes, energy follows. A bare chested Hawaiian could easily read the intentions of another by observing the chest move with the breath. When Captain Cook reached the Hawaiian Islands, the natives referred to them as Haoles, which means without breath. Cook and his crew wore clothing which covered their chests, thereby covering their breath, and for the Hawaiians who believed that breath carries the infinite consciousness, to hide your breath was at best strange and at worse sinister. 

What does this mean for us? A lot actually. Being with our breath strengthens our presence. So if you are having a conversation with a few friends, being mindful of your breath will bring you more fully into the flow of energy connecting you to your friends. It will put you "in the zone". It means that by controlling our breath, we control our mind and body. We can quiet the chatter in our heads and bring forth renewed energy to the moment. 

Intentionally minding your breath will bring awareness to your true self, a place deeper than surface thoughts and feelings. The inner light which connects us all together will shine forth and increase the compassion and love you have for yourself and others which will greatly increase your happiness. Minding your breath creates your own reality. Whoaaaaah.

 

"It is by obeying the suggestions of a higher light within you that you escape from yourself and, in transit, as it were see with the unworn sides of your eye, travel totally new paths." Henry David Thoreau

 

You and me can use this wisdom all day by simply choosing to be aware of our breath. Short mediation sessions are a great way to start you on your path to night and day awareness.

Here's short primer:

  • Stand straight (no slouching) or sit in a comfortable position (keeping your back straight and your knees below your hips) or lay down on the floor.
  • Now, without moving your head, focus your gaze on a space (this is called a drishti in yoga class).
  • Notice how you feel. 
  • Next, breath deep into the belly before expanding the breath up into the chest. Notice the space created by your breath. Notice the energy spread throughout your body. 
  • Keep aware of your breath and notice each and every thing within your field of vision, but don't move your eyes. 
  • Close your eyes.
  • Your mind may try throwing all sorts of chatter and "important" stuff into your head. Acknowledge them but do not entertain them. Return to minding your breath. Do not judge yourself for these thoughts trying to redirect your awareness away from the meditation. This is what the mind does. The mind wants to be in control. Meditation is how we stay in control of our minds. Any negative self-judgement will only strengthen the chatter.
  • Go for five minutes at first. Set goals that you feel are attainable. Notice how you feel after meditating.

You can also go for a walk (click here for examples of walking meditations).

Put on your favorite song and stay with your breath. Notice how the music makes you feel.

The next time you feel anxious, refocus on your breath by exhaling longer then your inhale. A longer exhale will calm the nerves. I put that particular breath practice to the test while raft guiding on the Chattooga river, and if it worked in serious whitewater it can work anywhere.

My personal favorite, and the one I feel to be most effective at strengthening my perception of the connection my consciousness shares with the the Spirit-which-moves-within-all-things is to get out in nature and be barefoot. To walk along the beach or along the river or out in the woods, and to set an intention to feel the Earth through the bottoms of my feet, to feel the Earth through the energy field of my heart.

Yoga is mindfulness. We can be mindful anywhere. 

Sending good vibes,

Alex