Cultivating Compassion

We spoke Monday about LOVE and how important it is to first be kind and compassionate to ourselves. To me, love is really the inherent spirit that lives inside each of us. We are all born with an immense capacity to love and be loved. It is this driving force that fuels all relationships. Oftentimes, our experiences will dictate how we view ourselves and others. Perhaps, we gave our heart to someone once and got hurt. Maybe we were taught as a child to “be tough”. Possibly, we didn’t have loving behavior modeled to us. Whatever reasons we have had for building up our defenses against love, research now shows that we can change our brain circuitry by our thoughts and emotions.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that positive emotions, such as love, compassion, and kindness could be developed much like developing the skill to play an instrument. They found that brain circuitry was markedly changed after individuals engaged in compassion meditation, as Tibetan monks had done for years. It reaffirms that our thoughts and, more importantly, the emotions that go along with them, create physical responses in our bodies. And, if you think about it, these become the beliefs and perceptions we have of the world. We create our lives out of these perceptions.

How can we harness and practice loving-kindness in our lives? Although, I think silencing our minds and spending a few minutes each day to meditate creates astounding benefits, there are other simple tactics you can utilize.

Be still. Appreciate your uniqueness. Pause to take in the beauty of nature. Laugh. Eliminate self-criticism. Know that each person in your life is doing their best. Forgive those who have wronged you. Feed your soul. Be grateful for your trials and tribulations. Pray. Surrender to the Higher Power that lives within you.

How can you radiate love today?

Broadening Your Perspective

I recently watched an interview with Oprah and Mark Nepo, author of the best-seller, “The Book of Awakening“.  For anyone looking for a book full of small vignettes of inspiration, this is your book. 

As we finish our discussion on navigating through the pain and struggles of life, I wanted to share an excerpt from Nepo’s book, as he puts the concept of pain in perspective.

How Does it Taste?

An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt.  When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. 

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” said the young man.

Peyto Lake

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.  The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake”. 

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?” 

“Fresh”, remarked the apprentice. 

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master. 

“No”, said the young man. 

At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering, “The pain of life is pure salt;  no more, no less.  The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same.  But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.  So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things….Stop being a glass.  Become a lake”.

Each of us, at different times in our lives, will experience some pain and struggles.  As raw and real as the experiences are, Nepo teaches us that when we broaden the space in our minds to house the pain, we start to taste the sweetness of life that still exists.

Living In Between the Answers

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. 

Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given to you, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything. 

Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”   -Ranier Maria Rilke

I first heard this quote read by my yoga instructor at the end of one of our sessions.  It got me thinking about how much we try to make sense of things that happen around us – especially, when they involve pain and suffering. 

We spoke Monday about learning how to ride the wave of our lives.  How do we navigate through the inevitable turmoil, stress, and pain that are part of the natural wave?  What can we do to nurture ourselves as we move through the challenges?  I came up with a few strategies.

1.  Take a moment.  Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling.  If emotions arise, let them come to the surface, instead of pushing them down.  Take time out of your day to be still – even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Too often, we try to fill our days so we don’t have to feel, when in reality, giving our emotions the space they need, will help cleanse the mind. 

2.  Move your Body.  We all know how closely linked our minds and bodies are.  During times of high stress, exercising is a great remedy.  Maybe you take a walk outdoors and breathe in some fresh air.  Perhaps, you sign up for a yoga class.  Maybe you recruit a good friend to be a running buddy.  Make some form of exercise a priority.

3.  Find Support.  Remember, we can’t go through life alone.  Lean on the people in your life that you trust and who have your best interest at heart.  Share your feelings, and allow them to be your safety net.  Often, we will find that those closest to us have gone through similar circumstances and give us solace that we are not alone.  Sometimes, that’s enough.

4.  Focus on Gratitude.  This is such a powerful tool to help us through any tough time.  Remind yourself of the things that are going right in your life (and, I guarantee, there are MANY).  I have a gratitude journal that I keep.  You may want to start by writing 5 things you are grateful for when you first start your day or before you go to bed.  There will soon be a shift in your perception.

5.  Feed your Soul.  There are many different ways to do this.  Give your soul the love it needs.  What are the simple things that give you pleasure?  Maybe it’s taking a warm bath or booking a massage for yourself.  Maybe you relish reading a good book on your couch.  Perhaps, you spend some quality time with your spouse or kids cooking a meal together.  How about that painting class you’ve been meaning to sign up for?  Whatever it is that brings you some small level of joy, provide it to yourself. 

6.  Accept Where You Are.  This is challenging for many of us.  We want so badly to be out of our circumstance.  But when we can fully embrace this time as just part of our journey, we realize that the wave never stands still.  It is always moving forward, as we will, too.    

Can you create some space to live between the answers?  Can you live and love the questions that arise? 

Your Center of Truth

Have you ever noticed that whenever you focus on something, somehow the universe mirrors it back to you?  We spoke Monday about knowing your truth.  The next evening at my power yoga class, the flow was focused on the “throat chakra” or the center of  truth.  Chakra is the Sanskrit word for “wheel”, and it is part of the energy force that lives within our bodies and spirit.  There are seven chakras, or channels that affect the body functions through our consciousness and awareness.  They are like pumps or valves that transmit energy throughout our body.

We feed our energy channels and, as a result, all of our vital organs by our thoughts and reactions to the stimuli in our environment.  The energy channel that correlates with our innate truth, exists in the throat.  It is through the throat and mouth that we express to the world who we are.  Only when we can be honest about who we are on a deeper level, can we express ourselves authentically.  Dishonesty, or even repressing our emotions and pushing them away into our subconscious, could manifest into various throat ailments.  It is through the pathway of our throat and mouth that we can create sounds, allowing us to vocalize freely the depth of who we are and who we hope to be.   Here are some associations to the the throat chakra courtesy of about.com:

  • Color– blue
  • Sanskrit Namevishuddha
  • Physical Location– throat, neck region
  • Purposes– learning to take responsibility for one’s own needs
  • Spiritual Lesson– confession, surrender personal will over to divine will, faith, truthfulness over deceit
  • Physical Dysfunctions– sore throat, mouth ulcers, scoliosis, swollen glands, thyroid dysfunctions, laryngitis, voice problems, gum or tooth problems, TMJ
  • Mental and Emotional Issues– personal expression, creativity, addiction, criticism, faith, decision making (choices), will, lack of authority
  • Information Stored Inside Throat Chakra– self-knowledge, truth, attitudes, hearing, taste, smell
  • Area of Body Governed – throat, thyroid, trachea, neck vertebrae, mouth, teeth, gums, esophagus, parathyroid, hypothalamus

How can you express your truth today?

 

They Call It Visualization

Another great way to exercise your mind is through visualization.  I do this often.  Visual imagery is a great way to relieve stress – especially if you can’t physically get away.   Though we can’t always go somewhere in the body, we can always take ourselves anywhere in the mind.  Just read Sharon Hohler’s post below, as she takes us through a visualization exercise.   I can already feel the warm sand on my feet!  Enjoy!
 
 

courtesy of Sharon Hohler

See this picture.  I’m ready to kick back, relax and watch the ocean waves crash onto the beach.  But wait, I’m at home, landlocked in Missouri.  No ocean for miles around. 

 
But I’ve got a good imagination.  I invite you to stop for a few minutes, read this post and then imagine if you will:  we are sitting in these comfy chairs and looking at the Sea of Cortez (between the mainland of Mexico and Baja peninsula).  It’s early morning and the sun has popped over the horizon with a blaze of sunshine.  It’s quiet except for the deep bass rumble of waves crashing on the beach.  The ocean breezes are gently blowing across our faces.  We sit quietly and sip our first cup of coffee for the morning and take a few big deep breaths of clean, fresh air.  Niiiice.
 
Can you feel the peace and quiet for a few minutes?  Do you feel the tension drain away from your body as you relax?  Take a big deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and release it, letting your muscles relax.  Thanks for enjoying visualization (my imaginary vacation) for a few minutes.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 
 
 
Enjoy reading more of Sharon’s articles on healthy living at www.livingthehealthylifewehavechoices.blogspot.com

The Value of Laughter

I am thrilled to introduce Sharon Hohler to Wellness Kriya this week as our guest contributer!  Sharon will be contributing to the kriya of EXERCISE THE MIND AND BODY this week.  I loved her angle on the value of laughter…..I’m certain you will, too!

The Value of Laugher, by Sharon Hohler

 

Have you laughed today?  We all know that laughter is good for us.  But how? 
The Healing Power of Humor, by Allen Klein gives us good insights.  Humor gives us power; it can be used to overcome fear.  When a person talks about and makes jokes about a situation which frightens him, the situation becomes less frightening.  As his brain hears the scary words over and over, the fear diminishes.    
 
Mr Klein makes this comment on page 5:  “Often we are powerless against the events in our life; sometimes there is little we can do to stop the things that upset us.  We can, however, minimize the hold that these upsets have over us by finding some humor in them.  Humor can help soothe the rough edges of our day and the most trying moments of our life.”  
 
Laughter increases our ability to cope.  We all experience life events such as flat tires, traffic jams and screwed-up schedules.  How do we react?  Do we take it seriously and stress out?  Do we see the humor in the situation and laugh?  Author Allen Klein says “adding humor to our difficult times can be one of the wisest things we can do to help us cope with them, stop worrying about them, and get on with our life.”  (Klein, A, The Healing Power of Humor, pg 10)
 
Humor/laughter provides physical benefits.  Laughter decreases physical tension and stress.  As stress hormone levels drop, our immune system cranks up and makes infection fighting antibodies and immune system cells which means better health.  Laughter, especially a good belly laugh, exercises our heart and lungs.  When we laugh, our blood vessels dilate and carry more blood to our body.  Laughter releases endorphins, our feel-good chemicals.  Researchers have found laughter relieves pain. 
 
The psychologists at Helpguide.org offer more suggestions on how to develop your sense of humor and add more laughter to your life:  “take yourself less seriously…laugh at yourself…attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them…surround yourself with reminders to lighten up…keep things in perspective…deal with your stress…pay attention to children and emulate them.” Laughter is the Best Medicine at http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm
 
Sharon Hohler is an RN and a writer.  She has published several magazine articles and is currently completing her second book.  Check out her website at www.livingthehealthylifewehavechoices.blogspot.com 
 
More from Sharon Wednesday!  Stay tuned!
 
 

 

Nature’s Balance

photo by Bill Dan

I remember taking a walk along windy Crissy Field in San Francisco when I stopped to take in something miraculous.  No, I’m not talking about the breath-taking view of the Golden Gate Bridge peering out from the fog.  I’m talking about the “rock-stacker” or “rock-balancer”, as he is referred to by the locals.  Bill Dan has been defying gravity (or what it appears) with his ability to perfectly balance rocks on top of one another without glue, magnets, or any other assistance.  He has an innate sense of creating balance by the shapes and sizes of rocks found alongside the water.  It’s as though they are suspended by a force coming from the sky. 

It got me thinking about balance.  In the theory of the balance of nature, it states that our ecosystem is usually in a stable equilibrium.  And when a change occurs to a particular parameter, the system will attempt to correct itself to restore its balance.  Think about what happens if you stand on one foot.  Unless you lean toward the other side and right yourself, you will fall.   It’s like Newton’s Third Law of Physics: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.  In our worlds, we are all trying to maintain some level of balance – whether it is with work and play, calories ingested vs. calories expended, inner peace and outer noise, we all want to restore our equilibrium.  Just as the above rocks will fall if not in alignment, we will tip toward one end of the spectrum if we don’t equally feed our souls when we feel emotionally or physically depleted. 

This weekend and week ahead, think about what you need to restore your balance.  Do you need to commit to exercising your mind and body at a certain time each day?  How about trying a new, healthy recipe?  Maybe you need to reward yourself with a massage or pedicure.   Or, perhaps, you just pause and take note of the people in your life that love and support you.  We may not always feel like the perfectly, balanced rocks  that Dan stacks, but we can certainly create a shift in our spirits.

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Sometimes, taking a moment to reflect on what is good in your life may be all that you need to create some balance.  Remember to be grateful.