Tulsi: The Anti-Aging, Stress-Fighting Wonder Herb You Need to Know

BY ORGANIC INDIA (a sponsored post previously posted here in Yoga Journal)

tulsi
Revered in India as “The Queen of Herbs,” Tulsi (also known as Holy Basil or “The Incomparable One”) has been used for centuries to support immunity, stress response, anti-aging, and the body’s natural detoxification process. The herb has been valued for centuries because of its benefits for the mind, body, and spirit.

Tulsi for Stress

Tulsi is a powerful “adaptogen,” an intelligent herb that adapts to physical, emotional and environmental stress, then works to normalize and balance the body. Stress is linked to many aspects of both physical and mental health, and healing and balance can only come about when the underlying stress is identified and addressed. Adaptogens reduce the intensity and negative impact of physical, emotional and environmental stressors.

Tulsi works to help support healthy cortisol levels by mitigating stress. Called “the stress hormone,” cortisol regulates and controls the influence of many of the physical and emotional changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Cortisol plays an important role in the body, releasing a boost of energy and strength in times of “flight or fight.” But the body cannot remain in a constant state of continual stress. Regular use of Tulsi helps to balance the body on all levels and support its response to every day stressors.

Tulsi for Health

Tulsi is also a powerful antioxidant, and has been used in Ayurveda for centuries. It is particularly effective with slow or congested digestion as well as emotional digestion. When the body is continually bombarded by high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, it can lead to increased appetite, weight gain and poor digestion, potentially leading to anxiety, depression or a suppressed immune system.

Tulsi works to lift mood, stamina and endurance with a calming energy. Adaptogenic herbs do not alter mood, but rather, they help the body function optimally. Tulsi creates a general sense of well-being, working to boost energy and enhance focus in order to deal with ongoing conflict and stress.

The anti-aging properties of Tulsi have been revered in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Studies have found that Tulsi is protective against oxidative damage and reduces free radicals, while it balances antioxidant enzymes.

Why ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi?

ORGANIC INDIA has been crafting high quality Tulsi teas and supplements since 1991. Their whole herb Tulsi is lovingly grown by small family farmers using regenerative agriculturepractices, to restore the health of the land and ensure the highest quality harvests.

Regenerative Agriculture is sub-sector of organic farming that regenerates unhealthy soils and builds upon soil fertility, in order to protect and restore the earth. Regenerative agricultural practices go beyond organic and sustainable agriculture, by regenerating the soil, land, and surrounding ecosystem in order to restore vibrant health to the environment. These practices are all about putting in more than they take out. Richer soil creates more powerful herbs, and in addition, these practices have restored microbial diversity to the soil. Microbes help to achieve balance in the digestive tract, so they are an added boost to the health benefits of ORGANIC INDIA’s teas and supplements.

While the current trend is to isolate compounds for their specific therapeutic quality, ORGANIC INDIA utilizes whole herbs in their Tulsi formulas, founded in a belief that the sum of the parts of the whole plant are more balanced than any one main constituent. Part of the restorative properties come from the synergistic quality of plants—they were not meant to be scientifically separated into extracts, they were meant to be offered whole. In honoring the divine intelligence of the earth, and offering the potency and balance of whole herbs, ORGANIC INDIA keeps herbal formulas as close to their original form as possible.

ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi teas and herbal supplements are comprised of three different types of Tulsi—Rama, Vana and Krishna Tulsi. Taken together, this formula is tri-dosha balancing, meaning that it is balancing to all Ayurvedic body types—Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas. While other Tulsi formulas may service a particular body type, ORGANIC INDIA’s Tulsi provides balance to all body types.

ORGANIC INDIA offers 24 flavors of Tulsi Tea, ranging from their wildly popular Tulsi Sweet Roseand Tulsi Turmeric Ginger, to their more therapeutically targeted formulas, such as Tulsi Sleepand Tulsi Tummy. They also offer a Tulsi Supplement for a less romanticized way to get in your daily dose of this powerful adaptogen. For reference, one Tulsi tea bag includes the same amount of Tulsi as one capsule of the Tulsi Supplement.

BY ORGANIC INDIA (a sponsored post previously posted here in Yoga Journal)


This posting is of interest to our health-minded community and not an endorsement of Organic India products.

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A Family Affair

Mother and daughter doing yoga

Want to make yoga a family affair? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.

Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it’s a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!

During the practice, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.

How can parents who want to practice with their kids follow her lead? First, says Roades, know that your child might not be hooked right away. Like adults, kids want to be good at things, and yoga can seem strange at first. “By the third time it’s usually not so foreign,” Roades says. She also encourages incorporating positions that your child already knows (like sitting cross-legged) into each session to build confidence. Once they are in a pose, tell them how many breaths they will stay in it, to help them feel safe. Finally, limit practices to 30 minutes or less and use language they’ll enjoy and understand.

Most of all, says Roades, make it fun, and your children will begin to feel stronger and calmer in their daily life. “Giving children the tools to feel confident is priceless,” Roades says. “Teaching kids how to relax and deal with their emotions is incredible.”

Before You Begin

Set Up. Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.

Communicate. Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it’s a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!

About the sequence.

During the sequence, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Stand up straight with your feet together. Lift your toes up and spread them. Roll your shoulders back and place your hands on your belly. Take 5 deep breaths and feel your belly move. This pose can be called “home base” in yoga.

2. Crescent Moon Pose

Bring your left arm up toward the sky and spread your fingers wide. Keep reaching your arm long as you tip over to the right. Take 2 to 5 deep breaths and then switch sides. Remember to reach as high as you can before tipping over.

3. Rag Doll Pose

Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Take a big breath, then exhale and bend over, letting your arms and head be loose and hang toward your feet. Shake out your arms and nod your head “yes” and “no.”

4. Ostrich Pose

Step your feet wide apart. Breathe in and reach both arms up. Exhale as you fold over. Place your hands on the floor or on your legs while you look through your legs. Ask your child why this pose is called Ostrich. (Answer: Ostriches sleep with their heads buried in the ground.)

5. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), with a partner

First try Warrior II individually. Then try it as a partner pose. Stand shoulder to shoulder and to the right of your child. Place the outer edge of your left foot next to the outer edge of her right foot (these are your “inside feet”). Step your outside feet wide and turn them out 90 degrees. Hold each other’s inside wrists, reach your outside arms away from each other, and bend your outside knees to 90 degrees.

6. Partner Frog Pose

Try Frog Pose individually first. Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Lower yourself into a squat. (If necessary, bring your feet farther apart or rest your heels on a rolled blanket.)

Place your elbows inside your knees and press your palms together at the heart. If you are tipping back, bring your head forward; if you are tipping forward, take your head back. After a few breaths, come out of the pose and try it together. Stand face to face, holding each other’s wrists. Take a big breath, then lower into a squat as you breathe out.

Mother and daughter doind exercise

7. Butterfly Pose

Sit face to face, pressing the soles of your own feet together. Scoot your sitting bones close to your feet. Interlace your fingers and place them around your feet. Sit up tall and take 2 to 5 deep breaths. If you want to deepen the pose, stick your chin out and bend forward. Instruct your child to breathe into her hips.

8. Mixing Bowl

Sit facing each other and extend your legs out wide into a V shape. Press the soles of your feet into the soles of your child’s feet (or have your child place her feet higher on your legs, if she needs to). Reach forward and hold each other’s wrists, hands, or fingers. Slowly begin to lean forward and back until you each feel a stretch. After a few breaths, rotate your bodies in a circle like you are mixing something in a bowl. Move one way and then the other, making sure to communicate if you want more or less of a stretch.

9. Mirror Me

Sit comfortably, facing each other. Bring your hands up, fingers spread wide, in front of your chest. Move your palms very close to your child’s, until they are almost touching. Move your hands up, down, and side to side very slowly, while your child mirrors you. Then allow your child to become the leader. Encourage quiet focus and concentration. Practice this exercise as long as you like. Afterward, ask your child if she preferred leading or following.

10. Partner Breathing

Sit back to back and feel your partner’s back move as she breathes naturally. Next, try to both make the in breath and the out breath the same length. Take 5 to 10 breaths together, enjoying the fruits of your hard work.

After You Finish

Rest Lie together in Floating on a Cloud Pose (also known as Savasana, or Corpse Pose). Encourage her to close her eyes, be still and calm, and pretend that her body is floating on a cloud. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.

Connect Give your child a hug and thank her for practicing with you. Get her feedback by asking her what she enjoyed the most. Be open to your child’s response.

Start a daily gratitude practice

BY FRANK JUDE BOCCIO  |  Originally published here in Yoga Journal

Count your blessings and you’ll find that even a “bad” day is filled with precious gifts.

At the grocery store, a friend was bowled over by the simplest act of kindness: A stranger let her step ahead of him in the checkout line. It was such a little thing, and yet it swelled her heart with happiness. What she experienced, she ultimately realized, was more than just gratitude for a chance to check out faster—it was an affirmation of her connection to a stranger and, therefore, to all beings.soft_love

What IS Gratitude?

On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you’re indebted to another person for taking care of you in some way, but looking deeper, you’ll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view—with its ferocious expectations and demands—and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it today.

It is easy, as Roger L’Estrange, the 17th-century author and pamphleteer, said, to “mistake the gratuitous blessings of heaven for the fruits of our own industry.” The truth is, you are supported in countless ways through each moment of your life. You awaken on schedule when your alarm clock beeps—thanks to the engineers, designers, assembly workers, salespeople, and others who brought you the clock; by the power-company workers who manage your electricity supply; and many others. Your morning yoga practice is the gift of generations of yogis who observed the truth and shared what they knew; of your local teacher and of her teacher; of the authors of books or videos you use to practice; of your body (for which you could thank your parents, the food that helps you maintain your good health, doctors, healers, and the “you” who cares for that body every day)—the list goes on.

When you awaken to the truth of this incredible interconnectedness, you are spontaneously filled with joy and appreciation. It is for this reason that one of the most transformative practices you can engage in is the cultivation of gratitude. Patanjali wrote that santosha (contentment, or appreciation for what you have) leads to unexcelled joy, while other yogic texts say that this sense of appreciation is the “supreme joy” that naturally leads to the realization of the Absolute. Thankfully, gratitude can be cultivated. It simply takes practice.

Begin to See All Of Life’s Gifts

If you’re like most people, you notice what goes wrong more often than what goes right. Human beings seem hard-wired to notice how reality fails to meet some idea of how they think things should be. How many times a day do you sink into disappointment, frustration, or sadness because others haven’t met your expectations? If you limit your attention to how life lets you down, you blind yourself to the myriad gifts you receive all the time. Continue reading

Mindfulness Walking Meditation

By John Cianciosi  |  Originally posted here in Yoga Journal

Learning to establish awareness during walking meditation helps to develop mindfulness during the activities of your daily life.

In Bodh Gaya, India, there is an old Bodhi tree that shades the very spot where the Buddha is believed to have sat in meditation on the night of his enlightenment. Close by is a raised walking path about 17 steps in length, where the Buddha mindfully paced up and down in walking meditation after becoming enlightened, experiencing the joy of a liberated heart.

In his teachings, the Buddha stressed the importance of developing mindfulness in all postures, including standing, sitting, lying down, and even walking. When reading accounts about the lives of monks and nuns in the time of the Buddha, you find that many attained various stages of enlightenment while doing walking meditation.

The Forest Meditation Tradition of northeast Thailand, with which I am most familiar, puts great emphasis on walking meditation. The monks live in simple single-room dwellings dispersed throughout the forest, and in the area around each hut you always find a well-worn meditation path. At various times of the day or night, monks can be seen pacing up and down these paths, mindfully striving to realize the same liberation of heart attained by the Buddha. Many monks walk for long hours and actually prefer it to sitting meditation. The late Ajahn Singtong, a much admired meditation master, sometimes practiced walking meditation for 10 to 15 hours a day.

While I don’t expect that many will want to walk for such a long time, you may want to try this form of meditation; it’s a valuable method of mental training for furthering awareness, concentration, and serenity. If developed, it can strengthen and broaden your meditation practice to new levels of tranquility and insight.

Also see Guided Mindful Walking Meditation

Continue reading

Yoga May Be Good for the Brain

Most of us past the age of 40 are aware that our minds and, in particular, memories begin to sputter as the years pass. Familiar names and words no longer spring readily to mind, and car keys acquire the power to teleport into jacket pockets where we could not possibly have left them.

Senior woman practices yoga.Some weakening in mental function appears to be inevitable as we age. But emerging science suggests that we might be able to slow and mitigate the decline by how we live and, in particular, whether and how we move our bodies. Past studies have found that people who run, weight train, dance, practice tai chi, or regularly garden have a lower risk of developing dementia than people who are not physically active at all.

There also is growing evidence that combining physical activity with meditation might intensify the benefits of both pursuits. In aninteresting study that I wrote about recently, for example, people with depression who meditated before they went for a run showed greater improvements in their mood than people who did either of those activities alone.

But many people do not have the physical capacity or taste for running or other similarly vigorous activities.

So for the new study, which was published in April in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and other institutions decided to test whether yoga, a relatively mild, meditative activity, could alter people’s brains and fortify their ability to think.

They began by recruiting 29 middle-aged and older adults from the Los Angeles area who told the researchers that they were anxious about the state of their memories and who, during evaluations at the university, were found to have mild cognitive impairment, a mental condition that can be a precursor to eventual dementia.

The volunteers also underwent a sophisticated type of brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with one another.

The volunteers then were divided into two groups. One began a well-established brain-training program that involves an hour a week of classroom time and a series of mental exercises designed to bolster their memory that volunteers were asked to practice at home for about 15 minutes a day.

The others took up yoga. For an hour each week, they visited the U.C.L.A. campus to learn Kundalini yoga, which involves breathing exercises and meditation as well as movement and poses. The researchers chose this form of yoga largely because people who are out of shape or new to yoga generally find it easy to complete the classes.

The yoga group also was taught a type of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya that involves repeating a series of sounds — a mantra — while simultaneously “dancing” with repetitive hand movements. They were asked to meditate in this way for 15 minutes every day, so that the total time commitment was equivalent for both groups.

The volunteers practiced their programs for 12 weeks.

Then they returned to the university’s lab for another round of cognitive tests and a second brain scan.

By this time, all of the men and women were able to perform significantly better on most tests of their thinking.

But only those who had practiced yoga and meditation showed improvements in their moods — they scored lower on an assessment of potential depression than those in the brain-training group — and they performed much better on a test of visuospatial memory, a type of remembering that is important for balance, depth perception and the ability to recognize objects and navigate the world.

The brain scans in both groups displayed more communication now between parts of their brains involved in memory and language skills. Those who had practiced yoga, however, also had developed more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater ability now to focus and multitask.

salutationIn effect, yoga and meditation had equaled and then topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training.

“We were a bit surprised by the magnitude” of the brain effects, said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. who oversaw the study.

How, physiologically, yoga and meditation had uniquely changed the volunteers’ brains is impossible to know from this study, although reductions in stress hormones and anxiety are likely to play a substantial role, she said. “These were all people worried about the state of their minds,” she pointed out.

Movement also increases the levels of various biochemicals in the muscles and brains that are associated with improved brain health, she said.

Whether other forms of yoga and meditation or either activity on its own might likewise bulk up the brain remains a mystery, she said. But there may be something especially potent, she said, about combining yoga with the type of meditation practiced in this study, during which people were not completely still.

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, which partially funded this study, provides information on its website about how to start meditating in this style, if you would like to try.

Why Practice?

BY RICHARD ROSEN  |  originally posted here in Yoga Journal

Most beginning students will tell you they got into yoga to alleviate back pain, relieve stress, or become more flexible—fairly simple responses. I started my own practice after reading that yoga asanas are the best form of exercise ever devised; that belief kept me going for several years.

But the reasons you practice might not be as straightforward as they seem. It’s entirely possible that after closely examining your innermost motives, you’ll find nothing more than a hankering for looser hamstrings—but don’t bet on it. Yoga is full of surprising twists and turns.

It’s no secret that we often do things for reasons we’re totally unaware of; sometimes our unconscious motives become clear only after a good deal of self-reflection. So it’s important to realize that questioning the intent of our practice inevitably leads us to inquire about the meaning of our life as well. We could just as pertinently ask: Why am I really alive?

At the outset, it’s natural to assume that our practice and our life are totally separate, that we practice for an hour or so a day and then forget about it. But after a while, the two inevitably begin to merge. As Sri Aurobindo, the great 20th-century Indian sage and progenitor of Integral Yoga, reminds us, “All life is yoga.”

In Aurobindo’s view, yoga is threaded through the warp and weft of our very existence, and in effect it chooses us. We practice yoga because we really don’t have any other choice. Of course, we do decide what form our practice takes—we can go off and live alone in a cave and meditate, or we can stay at home, raise a family, and root for the Yankees. Performed with the proper attitude, each of our everyday actions can be an asana, each breath a pranayama, each thought (or space between two successive thoughts) a seed for meditation.

We may have been gifted with the life-enhancing tool of yoga, but for what reason? The clue is in the Sanskrit word yoga itself, which as you no doubt have heard means “union.” For our purposes, though, it might be better to define it as “wholeness,” a word etymologically related to both healthy and holy. So why do we really practice yoga? Because life wants us to be whole in the widest and truest sense of the word.

A Seed for Meditation

Performed with the proper attitude, each of our everyday actions can be an asana, each breath a pranayama, each thought (or space between two successive thoughts) a seed for meditation.

–– Richard Rosen

Ready, Set, Change

BY CHRIS COLIN  | Originally published here on Yoga Journal

When Anna’s boyfriend of five years broke up with her, she was devastated. He had given every indication that he was committed to a shared life, right down to the proposed names for the children they’d planned to have. When he admitted he couldn’t deliver on any of their dreams, Anna (not her real name) did her best to move on. She painted her apartment, recycled her furniture, and swept out every reminder of him in a determined preparation for a new phase of life.

But deep down, she couldn’t accept the change. “I kept hoping a coconut would fall on his head and he’d come to his senses,” she recalls. She raged at the upending of the life she’d envisioned. She sabotaged new relationships by comparing them to life with her ex. For several years she fought the reality of his departure with all she had, and in the process shut herself off from new opportunities, from happiness, from peace. “I was so in the thick of it, I couldn’t see any doors opening. I was just banging into all these closed doors.”

only-i-can-change-my-lifeIt wasn’t until she experienced the equally life-transforming change of a cross-country move—a change she welcomed—that Anna realized the value of taking change in stride. “If you’re willing to accept the good changes,” she says, “you have to be willing to accept the bad, because it’s all part of the same dynamic.”

Erik, it would seem, already knew that. While working a hodgepodge of construction jobs, he had realized he needed a change and started rethinking things. “I was driving by Casper’s Hot Dogs, and all of a sudden it hit me: I wanted to do architecture,” he says. It took months of strategizing, but a major life warp was set in motion. Both Erik and his partner, Melissa, made plans to become grad students. Their house in California would be rented out, the relationship made long distance, as Erik moved to Philadelphia for the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious architecture program. A few months later, Melissa would head to New York’s Pratt School of Art and Design. Erik was thrilled. After a period of professional uncertainty, there was a plan.

And so, after moving east, Erik accepted the impossible hours, the sleep deprivation, and the separation from Melissa with resolve. All told, his big life change was chugging along nicely—right up to the moment a bigger one sneaked up from behind. He’d been gone about six weeks when Melissa called to say she was pregnant.

Erik greeted the news with joy. He didn’t kick and scream about the complete disruption of his life. He simply decided to come back to California, start a family, and leave Philadelphia behind. His hard-earned blueprints had been ripped to shreds—by something wonderful, to be sure—but ripped to shreds all the same. And yet he was OK.

Make Change

So, how is it that when life is spun around by circumstances, benign or otherwise, some people flail, while others sail? Why do some of us wallow in that place where we’re so shocked and unhappy about an unexpected turn of events that we resist reality and find ourselves mired in bitterness or fear or hopelessness? Instead of accepting change with grace, we dig in our heels and suffer through each day of things not being what we think they should be. What’s the secret to riding each new wave gracefully—regardless of whether it deposits you gently on the beach or wallops you down to the seafloor?

“I hear a lot of people say that change is exciting, but they mean a specific kind of change,” says the Frank Jude Boccio, a teacher of yoga and Zen Buddhism in New York. “We all have an aversion to change that we’d rather not have. Certain change is appreciated, and some is not.”

The funny thing is that as a culture, we seem determined to celebrate change. “Change is good,” we tell each other, and, “Everything happens for a reason.” Thoreau himself volunteered, “All change is a miracle to contemplate.” Yes, we praise the virtues of change religiously—until some unwanted, unscripted change occurs. Then, mostly, we long for permanence. For all our professed faith in the benefits of transformation, we are a species that falls to pieces upon learning the salmone fresco is sold out. Generally, we cement where possible and panic where not. The smallest nudging of our routine can send us into a tizzy, while big disruptions send us into therapy.

How can you learn to accept change with equanimity, absorbing each phase in stride and learning from each new experience? The answer may come from dealing with change in three distinct stages.

Loosen Your Grip

When any unscripted change comes down the pike, there’s an overwhelming feeling of losing control, and that’s perfectly normal—and also perfectly delusional, says Herdis Pelle, a teacher at the Berkeley Yoga Center in Berkeley, California. “We’re moving into unknown territory,” she says. “Deep down, we’re never in control.”

Pelle, who came to California by way of Denmark, England, and Scotland, says she bases much of her teaching on the changes she’s experienced in her own life. It’s not that she managed to get a better grip on those changes over the years—it’s that she accepted the impossibility of any real grip in the first place.

As for Anna, it took her three years to let go of the feeling that her preordained future had been wrested away. Eventually she recognized that had she and her ex stayed together, there were no guarantees that life would have unfolded as she’d wished. With or without him, she realized, she didn’t have control over life.

No one does. That moment you fantasize about? When the bills are paid, the roof stops leaking, the phone’s not ringing, and you soak in the caught-up-ness of it all? That’s when the dog runs away. Or the girlfriend gets pregnant. Or the tornado touches down. Life doesn’t give you breathing room, but if you stop grasping for control of the uncontrollable, you can learn to breathe through it all.

Of course, just as you can dread change disproportionately, you can also overly invest in it, betting on a new job, mate, or baby to erase your troubles. Such eagerness for change may look like the flip side of resistance to it, but really it’s another vain attempt to control your circumstances. “You think the change is going to be miraculous and solve all your problems,” says Anna, who has, at last, found that the best way to approach change in her life—wanted or not—is to neither fear it nor think it’s a cure.

Separate Your Feelings

Once you’ve accepted your utter lack of control, it can still take some doing to accept the emotions that often accompany a sudden unraveling of your expectations. Even minor setbacks challenge us. Take Frank Jude Boccio’s experience of returning to his Hudson Valley home after time away; the famous fall colors had just faded. “I was really disappointed,” he says. “I found myself wishing I could change it back, or have come home earlier. And that wasn’t right.”

By that, Boccio doesn’t mean that his disappointment was unjustified—that he should learn to see winter’s colors as just as pretty as autumn’s. His idea is more nuanced: you can be disappointed with certain changes, but you accept that disappointment the same way you’d accept delight.

What does that mean? Surely you can’t be expected to rate disappointment the same as delight. No, says Boccio, but you can separate your feelings from your response to them.

As for Erik, while he’s nervous about impending parenthood, he’s accepting his nervousness instead of worrying about how he’ll pay the bills or getting angry about having to leave his program.

By distinguishing your core emotions from those that pile on afterward, you don’t limit your emotional life; on the contrary, you unclutter it. As Boccio says, it’s the clutter that leads you away from your true experience and into murkier territory.

Mitra Somerville, a teacher at the Integral Yoga Institute of New York in Manhattan, looks at major life changes and their constellations of angst in terms of what is, and isn’t, permanent. Your duty, he says, is to recognize that in the midst of radical transformations, the Self remains stable. If you can come to an understanding of this—through asana, breathwork, meditation—you can soothe the discomfort brought on by external changes. “The yogic thinking is that there’s part of us that’s unchanging—the spiritual part of us that has peace and joy and love,” he says. “The nature of the world, however, is in flux.”

Tap Into Wisdom

Learning to make peace with life’s calamities—lost jobs, romances, dreams—does not mean you have to be passive.

“Sometimes we try to provoke change in our lives,” Boccio says. “Rather than just be with sadness, anxiety, or anger, we want to change it. And that inability to sit with what’s happening isduhkha, suffering.”

But does that always mean choosing inaction? What about when there are wars to resist, house fires to flee? Are you meant to be sanguine about any old change of plans that comes along? “If we listen to our hearts, in that deepest silence we will be guided toward the appropriate action,” says Pelle, who agrees that certain events require out-and-out protest—and that yoga helps you know which ones.

“We practice so that we can be guided from within,” says Somerville. In stilling your thoughts, you free up a more reliable inner wisdom. “The more peaceful your mind is, the clearer and stronger your intuition is, and the better able you are to make the proper decision.”

As Melissa’s due date approached, Erik was clearly at peace with the inevitable maelstrom ahead, despite upending everything in order to go to school, and then tearing that plan up as well. “It’s funny. The more time I had with this newest change—the one that took me away from the original change—the more I came to accept it,” he says. He still intends to pursue an architecture degree, but he’s clearer about that intention. “I came to see that I’ll transfer to another school [near home], or we’ll head back to Philly if we have to, or maybe just that I’ll get to it someday.”

A deeper realization about change had come to him, one that saw a kind of balance of permanence and impermanence in daily life. No matter how much the circumstances of his life turn upside down or sideways, he can be in touch with a core that’s always right side up—the essence of his being. Being in touch with this core, in turn, provides the clarity to navigate life’s loops with calmness.

“It’s good to change things now and then,” Erik says. “Not because change is inherently good, but because changing something about your life makes you realize that other things won’t change.”

balancing actExpect the Unexpected

Prepare for life’s ups and downs with a daily practice. Frank Jude Boccio offers some ideas for a change-friendly inner life.

Accept Impermanence: Every morning, I repeat a gatha (mindfulness verse): “Great is the matter of birth and death; impermanence surrounds us. Be awake each moment; do not waste your life.” Much of my practice has to do with aligning myself with that. Then, ideally, my action comes from the situation, rather than from a false perception of what’s happening.

Practice Mindfulness: Come back to the present moment. The Buddha points out that you can be happy in a pleasant situation, but then it’s all too easy to lose yourself in the pleasure.

Take a Breath: When faced with a change, pleasant or otherwise, I try to tune in to my breath, and how I’m feeling in my body. Tuning into the breath gives me time to respond better to an unpleasant situation.

FREE Learn to Meditate Workshop

Free Learn to Meditate Workshop – April 30th

2-3 p.m., at the TN Valley Unitarian Church, 2931 Kingston Pike!

meditate

Most meditation workshops cost hundreds of dollars. There is no charge, and nothing is sold. For those who wish, I recommend a Donation of time, food or money to Hospitality Pantries. It delivers food daily, to anyone that needs it. The Workshop is my way of giving back!

After graduating from UT in December 1972, I began collecting meditations from hundreds of people, past and present. I collected over 50 journals full of meditations. About 15 years ago, I put some of the best meditations in a book, 800 Stepping Stones to Complete Relaxation. The Learn to Meditate – Workshop helps individuals gather “top of the line” information. Practical tips from over 60 writers: Oprah Book Club, to the ancient writings of Socrates and Pythagoras, to special magazine articles! Author Michael Lee Wright, says, “Anyone can learn to meditate. It’s easy, inexpensive, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. And, you can practice meditation wherever you are: out walking, riding in a car or bus, watching television, waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in the middle of a difficult business meeting!” There are many benefits: improve your health, increase your happiness, expand your focus & attention, and make you more compassionate & wiser.

Everyone can benefit from Relaxation Meditations. The more you are relaxed the better your memory works, the better your muscles work, the better your brain works, and the better your life works. While a junior at UT, I found three meditations that helped change me from a “C/B” student into a “B/A” student; and from an unfocused kid into a focused adult! I remember when it happened! After a Psychology Class on “The Hill,” I walked down the steps to the main library, to go over “homework” for my next class, across the street in the business building. On this day, I had 30-minutes extra, so I went to the magazine shelves to look for interesting articles. In the table of contents of Psychology

Today, I found an article title that fascinated me, How a Student Can Improve Memory During Class? It has 3-simple techniques:

  1. sit up front & as far to the right as possible,
  2. have your eyes look to the left,
  3. and put your attention on the left side of the medulla oblongata (lowest, back area of the brain).

This stimulated the memory section of the brain, the hippocampus. I tried it in my next class, a very tuff and boring class on Government Economics. I found that my focus became so great that I took the best notes I had ever taken. At the end of the quarter (quarters then, not semesters), I went from a low “B” in the class to an “A.” I used the same technique in other classes, and it improved my grade in every class. A Quarter later, for a History “Term Paper,” I chose Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography, I found that Ben practiced 13-meditations that helped change him from an average life into a super life. A few months later, while studying in the main library (Hodges), I decided to take a break. I went into the back room where they kept the old magazines. It was called The Stacks because there were 10-year old issues of magazines stacked on top of each other. At the time, the Summer Olympics were coming up, so I decided to go through old sports magazines. I found an amazing magazine article on Billy Mills, the Olympic 1964 Gold Metal 10,000 meter winner. Billy grew up on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He loved to run as a boy. When he was 10-years, he stopped under a shade tree, trying to catch his breath and second wind. There were three old Indians sitting under the tree. One of the Indians walked up and started telling about running fifty years earlier, as a small boy, when his grandfather gave him a Breathing Chant. Back then, the Indian boys, who did not have horses, had to run & run & run. The magazine article continued, and Billy talked about his last lap in the Olympic 10,000 meter race. He was side by side with Ron Clark (Australian World Record holder), as they were about to lap slower runners. Ron Clark, on the inside, saw this and elbowed Billy. Then, Ron shot ahead, and around the slower runners. Billy was knocked off-stride, and another runner from Ethiopia passed him. Billy talks about using the Indian Breathing Chant. The more he chanted, the more his muscles relaxed, and the faster he went. It was a major Olympic upset, no American before or since, has won the Olympic 10,000 meter race. A movie was made of Billy Mill’s life in 1983, Running Brave (library & youtube.com). American Indian Breathing Chant (30-seconds): Divide your lungs into 3-sections (front, middle & back). Sing or Chant Hu, 6-times (aloud or silently, pronounced hue)! As Chant Hu Hu, visualize the letters in the front area of both lungs; Chant Hu Hu & see the letters in middle area…; Chant Hu Hu & visualize the letters in the back area of your lungs! Your mouth naturally drops open; & you breathe in the mouth & nose at the same time!

Michael says, “He began using this Indian Breathing Meditation while playing basketball on the University of Tennessee basketball courts, and it was amazingly helpful. Also, I used it while climbing the steps, & the long walks to class, because I was always out of breath, I did not seem to be able to think & walk & breathe at the same time.” He recommends using it while walking, bicycling or anytime the mind wonders into negative junk. After over 40-years, almost daily, I still chant or sing Hu. It is like a tuning fork. The more I sing or chant Hu (aloud or silently), the more I tune to the life-beat within me. And, the more relaxed & the more aware I become!”

HOMEWORK: EVERY DAY PRACTICE 3-MEDITATIONS (1-BREATHING, 1-VISUALIZATION, & 1-SOUND).

meditation-leafOne of the most practical & useful meditation is proper breathing. The more oxygen into the body, the more it relaxes, and the less anxiety. In tense situations the jaw tightens & you forget to breathe in the nose & mouth at the same time. 1) Proper Breathing Meditation (3-seconds): Repeat, silently, 3-times: “Relax Jaw…” Your mouth will open slightly and you can feel the cool air on the roof of your mouth! Repeat off & on during the day, especially anytime you catch your mouth closed! 2) Create Your Own Meditation (1-2 minutes): Collect inspiring phases or quotes from songs, books, & movies (google – quotes). Put them in a vase; & every morning pull one out before you leave home. Off & on during the day, repeat the phase 3-times, & wonder: “What does it mean? Why is it interesting? 3) Re-Program Your Brain with Positive Thoughts (8-15 seconds): Example: Silently repeat, “CONTENTMENT” 3-TIMES. Then ADD, “APPRECIATE CONTENTMENT” & repeat 3-TIMES. THEN ADD, “APPRECIATE FEELING CONTENTMENT,” & repeat 3-TIMES! Repeat 4-6 times a day! Type 20-Postive Thoughts (20 font), cut & put in Jar or vase. THEN, Pick a new “Positive Thought every Sunday,” & tape to your refrigerator. In the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Ben meditated on 13-positive thoughts for 13-weeks: cleanliness, chastity, frugality, humility, industry, justice, moderation, silence, sincerity, resolution, order, temperance, & tranquility. Napoleon Hill, Think & Grow Rich, meditations: peace of mind, love & romance, hope & faith, sound health, & financial security.

Plato (ancient Greek) meditations: temperance, prudence, & courage! Aristotle meditations: harmony, ethics, virtue, nature, wisdom, balance, soul, truth, and enlightenment. It takes 8-15 seconds of attention to program the brain! In 12-weeks, the quality of your life will improve. 4) What is the Greatest Visualization that you Can Imagine? (1-2 minutes): Imagine colors, sounds, & feelings – Put Yourself in the Picture! Off & on, during the day, when you need a break, close your eyes, and practice a visualization: imagine your favorite place, a mountain stream, the ocean, a vacation scene, someone you love, doing something you love, a time when you were laughing, etc.

The Workshop will cover many levels & types of meditation: breathing, relaxation, visualizations, projection, sleep & dream, light & sound, chanting, self & soul, & maximizing awareness. Learn the basics: who, what, when, where, why & how? Reduce stress & worry. Reduce anger & fear. Help with sleep issues, weight issues, healing processes & more. Use meditation to control drug & alcohol abuse. Learn to practice contentment & tranquility. For more information or If you cannot attend the workshop, e-mail: mikewright102348@gmail.com – (Handout/Outline).

Thanks,

Mike Wright

Home: (865) 851-9535, cell: 308-8529, email: mikewright102348@gmail.com