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A day later again… I must have been practicing this week’s mantra:

Take Time to do Nothing.

Can’t blame me, I was busy doing nothing.


Before we get into this week’s soul challenge, I suppose I have to report my results of Week 2. Week 2 was regrettably a little worse than Week 1. Yes, I should have learned some lessons from Week 1. Yes, I should have been able to pull myself out of those patterns I identified last week. However, I did not. But, you know what? That’s okay. This is a learning process, and each week I am more mindful of my daily “health practices” and my obstacles.

My total: 25 (out of a potential 35)

As I look to where I did not earn points this past week, a pattern does begin to emerge. The days that I am in the office are definitely the days I do not always get in all aspects of our challenge. The days that I am in the office, I wake up panicked from the beginning – planning, over-thinking, and shuffling my own health off to the side in order to worry some more. And these days, in the office, are also the days I tend to sleep-in in the mornings (and miss my morning meditation) since I started the planning, over-thinking, and worrying the night before.

(Warning: Attempt to (over-) simplify some pretty complicated theories below…) 

In traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver is the organ of “planning” (next to many other things). When one is “stuck” in a pattern of over-planning, especially in bed at night, we look to the Liver. In the body, the Liver is responsible for orchestrating the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) around the body. It also stores blood, controls our tendons and sinews, and houses the “Ethereal Soul” – the Hun. If this smooth flow of Qi is not optimized, things get stuck, stagnant… including our Hun. The Hun gives us the drive, the direction, and the purpose for, well, our lives. Of course it does – it is the conductor, the overseer of plans. Thus, if Qi is not flowing as it should, we not only experience physical symptoms of “stuckness”, but also, emotional symptoms of “stuckness”. Some people are constitutionally more prone to imbalances in the Liver. And, through the years, I  have discovered that I am certainly one of these people.

So, the more I plan, over-plan, and re-plan… the more stuck I get. It’s an ironic concept. That phenomenon which I am trying to prevent by “over-planning” (wasted time, inefficiency, lack of productivity, unpreparedness) is actually WORSENED as I think myself into a loop. (Yes, there are physiological reasons and treatments as well, but emotions are often a large part of root cause.)

And so, we come back to our “soul” challenge of this week:

Take Time to do Nothing.

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~ A.A. Milne

Okay. Some people may not like this. If you start searching for quotes about “nothing”, you start to come up with things like “If you want to be nothing, do nothing” or “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. However, I don’t mean do NOTHING nothing. I mean: take a little time out each day for silence. Take time for something that is not conventionally “productive” (though, according to me, it is much more productive in the bigger picture). Take time out to be present with LIFE – imagine being an infant again. Observing, watching, taking in… seemingly doing nothing productive, yet growing by the minute. It is when we allow ourselves to stop that we can let our bodies talk. When we stop over-thinking things, ideas emerge. When we clear our heads, we make space for more.

Ideas on how to do nothing:

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no means a waste of time. ~ J. Lubbock

More ideas here: http://amolife.com/character/the-art-of-doing-nothing.html

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Oops.

Tuesday marked the end of our first week of the “take time challenge”… and I was afraid to tally up my results. As a teacher, a naturopath, and a potential role model, I am acutely aware of the importance of “walking the talk“. Authenticity is for what I strive every day – and, when there is a disconnect between what I believe/teach and what I do, there is a deeply unsettling feeling. A mixture of anxiety, shame, guilt, and the other emotion that has no name that comes around from my core knowledge that those are all life-sucking emotions to feel.

This, unfortunately, was the feeling I walked around with over the last week.

This, alone, is an unfortunate turn in my own “Take Time Challenge”. However, on adding up my own results, the clouds cleared. Things aren’t that bad.

My total: 27 (out of a potential 35)

Where I earned points: A Wednesday night chamomile bath with a book, a fairly regular meditation practice, small breaks for sunshine even if I didn’t have time for a full “workout”, lots of connection with people

Where I lost points: A lunch skipped, a few days of not leaving my work for anything, forgetting our theme some days, procrastination

I can learn to celebrate the little achievements, and now I am conscious of my “learning objectives”.

  1. Work can often overpower my need for nourishment – in body, mind, and soul. However, to be the best that I can be in my work, I must be nourished. I must feel complete. I must be present and awake and balanced.
  2. Though it is important to walk my talk – it is more important to move forward without shame or guilt or those other unnamed feelings. Kindness and compassion towards one’s self are the answers. If the path to optimal health and balance in boy, mind and soul were simple, then we would all be there. There will be obstacles – celebrate not only when you have crossed them, but also when they become visible. This is the first step to formulating your way over, under, around and through.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

So, let us introduce the theme for week 2 (sorry I am a day late!)…

TAKE TIME FOR THE HERE AND NOW.

“Whatever I’m doing at the moment is the biggest thing in life — whether it is conducting a symphony or peeling an orange.” – Arturo Toscanini

Ideas for how to do this daily:

  • This is an easy one, if you read the quote. The key is presence. Mindful action. Being here, now. Going a little slower to take time and “smell the roses”. Noticing the details, and delighting in them.
  • Be Here, Now.
  • Another quote for some hints:

“If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, touch it, or smell it, you can be present with it. It is of the present moment, and so it brings to you the opportunity to be present with it.” – Leonard Jacobson

Enjoy!

When we think of core strength, our society often envisions hard, flat abdomens. This, somehow, has become the embodiment of a healthy physique in our culture and sells everything from yogurt to underwear. But is this healthy? And most of all, is this important? If we look at the most prominent yogis of the past (including the Buddha himself), we see that not one is “blessed” with a six-to-ten-pack. In fact, many have quite the ‘Buddha belly’. But does that make them weak? According to yogic, Ayurvedic, and even traditional Chinese medical philosophy, it is quite the contrary.

The belly, or the abdomen, is a centre of power, and where a large reserve of energy/qi/prana is held. Thus, if one has worked to develop a supple, flexible, and innately strong midsection (not tense, hard, and blocked), they can tap into an infinite resource of energy. This does not mean that the bellies we see in IHOP or at a buffet are healthy – too much belly fat is detrimental to health. However, the opposite – overworking the abs to eliminate all fat and harden the muscles beneath- is also detrimental to health. Women, especially, are not usually made for six-pack abs naturally. And striving for this is quite unrealistic. If you think of a healthy muscle or muscle group, it is at it’s optimal strength when it is both strong AND flexible – springy and elastic. A tense muscle, especially a stabilizing muscle, cannot attain its optimal strength.

Not only does overworking the abs harm us physically, but it also creates some psychological blockages as well. It only overemphasizes “control” – making our bellies hard to try to “keep it together” and avoid vulnerability. It causes a sort of “mental constipation” – where we are not following intuition, only rules and order… where we are not free to act on our will, but according to standards or society. Yogis, though also warriors and soldiers, require a supple belly in order to connect to a strong core of space and calm within.

In addition, the core encompasses much more than just abdominals. Our posture is greatly determined by the balance of local and global muscles around the spine. Some shorten as they weaken, some shorten as they are overused. Some become overstretched, while others need a good stretching. It is the balance of these muscles that determine what our default posture becomes. And often, in our society, it can be an ugly balance. Again, yoga practice does not only physically attempt to bring the body back into alignment, but in strengthening the core, we are also strengthening a mental core as well. Our internal strength translates in our integrity of character and the ability to remain stable, calm, and authentic despite external conditions. By reconnecting with our body’s optimal alignment and strength, we take stress off of the nervous system, we create space within, and we feel good about ourselves.

Asana of the week: We begin with breath. Our asana this week, is easy seated pose (or Sukhasana). We are going to connect to our core with breath. A supple (but strong) belly is needed to use one’s full breath capacity. Activated core muscles are required to sit tall, without back support, with our legs crossed. (If you feel as if your sit bones are rolling forward when you sit, roll up your mat, use a blanket, or a cushion/bolster to prop up your bottom. Your knees should fall below your hip bones, and you should be seated right on your sit bones, spine long.) Keep in mind that deep, diaphragmatic breathing does not entail pushing your belly out deliberately. Full belly breathing just requires a naturally alternating engagement and release. To assure deep diaphragmatic breathing, first engage the abdomen in a complete exhalation, then allow your lungs to fill up naturally, relaxing the abdomen but not pushing it outward.

Place your right hand on your abdomen so that you may feel your breath moving your diaphragm, your left hand at your heart centre. Breathe slowly and deliberately, sensing the strength of your inner core as your obliques and deep transversus muscles compress to expel the air from your lungs completely. Then enjoy the flow of oxygen that fills your chest as these muscles release, creating space for prana to stream into your heart like water flowing into a basin. After a few minutes, allow your breath to resume its natural pattern. Observe it without criticism or effort. Imagine your abdominal cavity as the fluid container of your deepest wisdom and feel the energy at your navel radiating throughout your body.

Just me…

2010 Journey

December 2017
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