Raising Awareness

Raising awareness within oneself is often the first step taken if one wishes to become more aware to one’s surroundings and to life itself.  Can’t know anything outside of us if we’re out of touch with our own selves.

A simple way to begin a practice like this is to just pay attention to, and switch up routine things about ourselves.

For example, if you are right-handed, begin to do some things with your left hand; such as brushing your teeth, combing your hair or shaving.  Reach for things with your non-dominant hand, and just notice what it’s like to do that and how it feels.

Look at how your feet are pointed as you’re walking or standing still.  If necessary, gently correct the alignment by re-positioning your feet so that they are pointed straight ahead as you walk or stand still.  Your hips and spine will thank you for this, too.  Just notice, and gently correct and then see how it feels to walk and stand in this adjusted manner.

Last but never least is the breath.

Notice the depth of your breath throughout your day.  Especially during any anxious moments.  Can you notice your breath?  

The breath is both a barometer/indicator and a tool that can be used to calm the nervous system.  If you notice that your breath is shallow, simply make a point to pay attention to the length of your breath and try to lengthen your exhale to be double the time of your inhale.  For example, if you count your inhale at four seconds, lengthen your exhale to eight seconds.  And then see if you can notice what its like to do that, and how you feel after watching your breath and lengthening your exhale for a few minutes.  Do this throughout your day, especially during anxious moments and just notice what its like and if there is any difference in how you feel during and afterwards.

These are some basic steps to become more self-aware.

As these are practiced, see if you begin noticing any difference in your awareness within yourself, and also outside of yourself; of your surroundings and of other people. 

Scientists show how Gratitude literally alters the Human Heart and Molecular Structure

“A group of prestigious and internationally recognized leaders in physics, biophysics, astrophysics, education, mathematics, engineering, cardiology, biofeedback, and psychology (among other disciplines) have been doing some brilliant work over at the Institute of HeartMath.

Their work, among many others, has proven that when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a different message, which determines what kind of signals are sent to the brain.”

Because the heart sends signals to the brain, feeling gratitude consistently can actually re-wire your brain; creating more receptors for such emotions and can be a great tool in overcoming depression and anxiety.

https://www.collective-evolution.com/2019/02/14/scientists-show-how-gratitude-literally-alters-the-human-heart-molecular-structure-of-the-brain/?fbclid=IwAR0Uw0W2ly5bwewmy-vSx8WGR9SusAY_XlTAs8weUet6suoLUXMJUzt28Zc

Just use your Breath

Controlling your anxiety and nervousness can be helped by simply lengthening your exhale.

Hacking your Vagus Nerve simply by using your breath and a lengthened exhale can help against stress responses, and will improve your Heart Rate Variable.

During an inhale, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates a very brief acceleration of the heart rate. During an exhale, the Vagus Nerve secretes a transmitter substance which causes a deceleration of the heart rate via the parasympathetic nervous system.

For example, a yoga practice instructs us to focus on the breath; specifically on the exhale. Using just the breath alone, one can lower one’s heart rate, which will in turn help to bring down anxiety levels, and help with agitation and general stress. Pranayamic breath work has been in use successfully in many ways for thousands of years around the world for the exact same reason. Almost every couple of years, fresh research corroborates that each of us can trigger our “rest and relax” parasympathetic nervous system to bring about a relaxation response , simply by focusing on the inhalation-to-exhalation ratio of our breathing and consciously extending the length of each exhale while doing breathing exercises as we go about our day-to-day lives. This allows us to focus more clearly, pay closer attention to someone or something, and allows us to be much more “present” in our lives with others. Immensely helpful in any situation.

Using these respiration patterns frequently (slowed and with longer exhalations) can explain a significant part of the efficacy found within contemplative activity practice. Though contemplative activities are diverse, they have shown a similar pattern of beneficial effects on health, mental health, and cognition: mostly in stress-related conditions and performance. This pattern can be explained by these controlled breathing exercises.

An easy way to test this and integrate it into your daily life is to use the 4:8 breathing cycle.

Inhale deep and long for four seconds, then exhale deep and long for 8 seconds. This should come out to about 5 cycles per minute.

Any time you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, try 2 minutes of Vagus Nerve Breathing, or about 10 rounds of the 4:8 inhale/exhale cycles. Just see for yourself how you feel afterward.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201905/longer-exhalations-are-easy-way-hack-your-vagus-nerve?fbclid=IwAR12YBbf6fQ5wrYKi4R42MB1yK5uYSMPZiN764fAKMJ1rlczbiOrptkBugU

Benefits of a Daily Meditation Practice

While meditation can and will provide a sense of peace and tranquility, there are many other benefits to be had from a daily practice.

Lowered blood pressure, calming of the nervous system, and better management of Anxiety Disorders all can be had from a daily practice of meditation.

Sleep quality can be improved, meditation can be used as a part of chronic pain management therapy, and it will also boost your immune system.

Lastly, meditation will help you have happy relationships, because you will be more peaceful and calm. Less will irritate you, and you’ll be inclined to recognize happy and joyful moments throughout your day more.

Check out the below link on Healthgrades.com for more information:

How negative emotions physically affect your well-being

IMG_4526.jpg

Your body is a physical manifestation of what you tell yourself.

Contentment within the emotions produces the like in the body’s systems.  One’s immune system becomes strong, muscles can become strong and limber.  This helps our emotional outlook and general well-being.  We’re in a good mood when we feel good.  Nothing seems impossible.

But should those same emotions become negative, producing quiet voices within us that speak “I can’t”, “I’m not good enough”, I don’t deserve”, the body also manifests physical forms of these emotions.  Disease easily finds a hospitable breeding ground in consistent negative emotions.  Which in turn then makes us more uncomfortable, more sad or angry – because we don’t feel well.  The system becomes out of balance, and since emotions produce physical attributes in the body, the cycle that was once positive can turn negative, and the since the manifestations in the body support the emotional condition, we become sick more often.  Chronic pain can develop.  Headaches, body aches, fatigue.  Just like a viral disease, the body can do harm to itself as a result of a consistent, negative emotional environment.  Often, this is an old cycle; meaning that we learned this manner of walking in the world at a young age; so recognizing it can be tricky to do.

So what to do?

If you find yourself in a similar condition, talk with someone.  It can be very helpful to have a third party’s support in looking to see if we are managing our lives compulsively or consciously.  Get around some other people.  Exercise is a fantastic holistic remedy; and is quite necessary as we all age to keep our bodies as well as possible.  A Yoga class, bicycling, running, walking, a health club membership; all will change the body’s chemistry and produce positive results not only physically, but also emotionally from being around like-minded people and from accomplishing goals.

The first step can be difficult to take.  But it can also make a world of difference in your life and in the lives of those around us.

The Castle in the Lake

 

 

Image

The Castle in the Lake

In the land of Tibet, there was a beautiful lake surrounded by hills and mountains. So beautiful and clear was the lake that people who passed by would gasp in wonderment. Some would say that when the sun was high in the sky, casting the shadows of the mountain peaks across the calm expanse of water, it looked just as if there was a castle in the lake, a castle of such vast proportions that it filled the water. So the lake soon came to be known as “The Castle Lake.”

Many stories grew up around the lake and its castle. Sometimes it was said that when the moon shone full and the stars gleamed like diamonds on the water, people could be seen rising from the lake, strange people, with eyes afire and flowing hair hanging like wet leaves around their faces. Or fiery dogs would appear to tear the flesh from lone travelers walking the beach in innocence.

But, as is often the case with legends, father told daughter and mother told son through many generations, until the stories grew bigger and bigger with each telling, and finally they conveyed much more than the original teller intended. Soon it was generally accepted that there was indeed a castle in the lake, and that the castle had a king. The king, it was said, had many retainers, men who by some misfortune had fallen into the lake, or who had been captured while walking alone on its shores and were thereafter forced to remain in the service of the king.

One day a young herdsman was tending his yaks on the eastern side of the lake. Feeling a need for refreshment, he left his herd and made his way down to the waters edge. After he had splashed the cooling water onto his face, he lay back against a large rock, took his cheese and barley bread from his bag, lit a small fire to heat up his butter tea, and began to have his lunch.

While he was eating, Rinchen began to reflect upon his life. His mother was a cruel woman; she forced him to work hard so that she could buy new clothes and eat well, while he had to be content with a few cast-off rags and the scraps of food his mother did not want. Thinking thus, Rinchen began to cry. The tears rolled down his cheeks and sobs shook his body; he could work no harder and yet his mother wanted more and more.

As the boy began to pack away his things he looked up and saw a man standing at the waters edge. The man was tall and dressed in a black chuba dripping with water, looking just as if he had come up out of the lake. Recalling the stories he had heard about the Castle Lake and the king’s retainers, Rinchen began to panick, and was just starting to run away when the man spoke.

“Why do you cry so?” the man asked. Rinchen turned to see the man and saw that his face was gentle and kind, and heard that his voice was soft and melodious. All the fear seemed to leave his body and he walked toward the tall man standing in the shallows of the lake. The man repeated his question and the man told him about his mother and how she forced him to work harder and harder in order to keep her.

“Come with me into the lake,” the man said, “for the king is a kind man and may be able to help you with your problem.” The young herdsman began to feel fear well inside him once more, for he was sure that if he went into the lake he would never return. The tall man sensed the boys fear, but in gentle tones which felt like music to the ear, he persuaded the young herdsman that he need not fear for his life.

“I am one of the king’s retainers,” said the man. “I will take you to see him and see that you return safely.” The young herdsman thought for a moment, “What have I to lose? My mother is so cruel that even death would be better than spending the rest of my life in her bondage.” And so, throwing his fear away, Rinchen followed the king’s retainer into the lake.

The water was warm and friendly, and the boy was surprised that he could breathe quite freely. The king’s retainer asked the boy to close his eyes as he led the boy through the water to the castle. When they stopped and Rinchen opened his eyes he saw that he was standing in a large hall, elaborately decorated in gold, shining silver, and beautiful shell. At the end of the hall was a throne, and on the throne sat an old man, the king.

The beckoned to the boy to come forward and as he did so Rinchen noticed that he was not alone in the room with the king and his retainer, for standing on each side of the throne were more retainers, dressed in black chubas just like the tall man who met him on the shore of the lake. When he reached the foot of the king’s throne one of the retainers sprang forward and placed a small stool in front of the throne for the boy to sit on. Nervously, Rinchen sat down and looked up into the watery blue eyes of the king.

“Why do you come here?” asked the king in a deep voice which resembled the distant rumblings of thunder. The boy told the king his story, just as he had related it to the retainer on the shores of the lake.

The king listened, and when Rinchen had finished his story he turned toward his group of retainers and motioned for one of them to come to him. The retainer approached the king and bent low while the king whispered instructions into his ear. The young herdsman strained but could not hear what the king was saying. The retainer left the hall and returned a few moments later with a dog.

“Take this dog,” said the king to the young herdsman, “but take care that you always feed it before you feed yourself, that is very important.” Rinchen took the dog, and with his eyes closed let himself be led to the shores of the lake. When he opened his eyes he was alone with the dog.

The young herdsman went home with the dog, and from that day on, everything he desired appeared before him. He would wake up in the morning and find that barley had been placed in the barley chest, butter in the butter chest and money in the money chest. Even new clothes appeared in his clothes chest. He was very happy and always took great care of the dog, heeding the kings instructions to always feed it before feeding himself.

Rinchen’s mother was amazed that suddenly her son should become so wealthy, and one day she decided to go out with the herd of yaks to see if she could discover the source of infinite plenty. While the mother was out of the house the young herdsman decided to watch the dog, for he was curious and wanted to know how the animal managed to produce the money and food. Hiding himself in the house, he watched the dog as it entered the door, walked over to the hearth, and violently began shaking itself.

Suddenly, the dogs skin fell to the ground, revealing a beautiful woman, the most beautiful woman Rinchen had ever seen. The woman went to the barley chest, opened the lid, and placed in it the barley, which appeared from nowhere. Then she did the same with the butter chest, the tea chest, the money chest, going all about the house producing everything that the boy and his mother needed.

Rinchen could contain himself no longer. He seized the dog’s skin and threw it into the fire. The beautiful woman begged him not to do so, but it was too late, the skin had burned quickly and was soon just a pile of ashes. Frightened that the chief’s son would see the woman and take her for his wife, Rinchen covered her face with soot to hide her beauty, and kept her in the house away from the eyes of the people.

Soon, the young herdsman grew very rich, and with his wealth he grew exceedingly bold. “Why do I worry,” he thought, “I have much money; the chief’s son will not dare to steal the woman from me, for I can buy weapons and men.” Thinking this, Rinchen washed the soot from the beautiful womans face and took her into town to show her to the people, for he was very proud of her beauty.

The chief’s son was in town and he saw the woman. He was determined that she should become his wife, and sent his men to fetch the woman to him. The young herdsman was distressed and called upon the men of the town to help him, but they were too afraid of the chief and his son, and not one man would come forward to help Rinchen save his woman.

Feeling very sad, the young herdsman went down to the shore of the lake, sat down by the large rock and began to cry. Just as before, the king’s retainer appeared. “Why do you weep this time?” he asked. “I have lost my woman,” the boy replied, and told the whole story of how he had burned the dog skin and kept the beautiful woman hidden from the eyes of the people by covering her face in soot, but growing bold he washed her face, showing her beauty to the chief’s son, and so lost her forever.

The retainer asked Rinchen to follow him into the lake again, for the king needed to be told the story. “Perhaps,” said the retainer, “the king may be able to help you again.” The young herdsman soon found himself in front of the throne once more at the feet of the king of the lake. After he heard the story of how Rinchen had lost the beautiful woman, the king gave him a small wooden box.

“Take this box,” the king said, holding it out to the young herdsman. “Now” the king continued, “go to the top of a high hill and call the chief’s son to war. When he has assembeled his armies at the base of the hill, open the box and shout ‘Fight!’ ” This the young herdsman did, and when he opened the box and called “Fight!”, thousands of men charged out of the box and defeated the cheif’s son’s soldiers.

Rinchen won back his beautiful woman and took her for his wife. He also took half of the chief’s lands and became a rich, benevolent leader of the people. The young herdsman also returned the box to the king of the lake, thanking him and living in fruitful contact with him for all of his life.