Posts Tagged With: mind

Words of Wisdom (Part 2): Einstein

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When someone says the word “genius,” who is the first person you think of?
We continue onward with the Words of Wisdom series to the man who brought us some of the most profound understandings of the universe yet uncovered: Albert Einstein. Without this mastermind the world of scientific inquiry, its applications, and our general understanding on how reality works would be vastly different. His concepts of the photoelectric effect, special relativity, matter-energy equivalence (E=mc^2 for all y’all nerdy folk), general relativity, and more has built the foundation of modern physics and our framework of perceiving the universe.

Of course Einstein stood on the shoulders of giants to develop his theories (Maxwell, Planck, Newton, etc.), but in doing so he himself became a giant. Perhaps it was his wacked hair style or dynamic facial expressions that rendered him such an icon in pop-culture, but it is irrefutable this man had a mighty mind. Einstein was not always correct and it is true some of his theories were tossed (ex: concept of a cosmological constant). However the essence of what makes Albert Einstein so great is that he did make mistakes, he was human, and thus attainable. His humility and ability to relate with words matched his intellect, and so we call him wise.

SJC Wellness Top Five Quotes by Albert Einstein:

#5: “Out of Clutter, find simplicity. From Discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”

#4: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

#3: “Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

#2: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

#1: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

Food for thought: If our consciousness is a part of the universe,  how do we draw conclusions on what the universe is without understanding our consciousness?

photo cred: Randy Halverson

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Reflexology

reflexology-feet-chart2

As humans, we are made up of physical and emotional body, in conjunction with a mind and spirit. They function interdependently. Reflexology incorporates all aspects of the human being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit. In a relaxed state, we integrate all aspects of our being.

Definition of reflexology (n)
(Dictionary)
re·flex·ol·o·gy pronounced [ ree flek sólləjee ]

1.massage therapy: a form of massage in which pressure is applied to parts of the feet and hands in order to promote relaxation and healing elsewhere in the body
2.study of reflexes and behavior: the scientific study of physiological reflexes and their relation to behavior
3.behavioral theory: a theory that explains human behavior as complex chains of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes

Studies researching reflexology in the U.S. and across the world note positive benefits. Studies, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health indicate reflexology’s promise as an intervention for pain management, enhance relaxation, sleep, and the reduction of psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Perhaps the most beneficial results have been in the area of cancer palliation (Ernst, Posadzki, Lee, 2010).

Reflexologists utilize hand and foot charts as a guide and apply pressure to specific areas. Reflexology is the application of pressure to areas on the feet, hands and ears. Reflexology is relaxing and an effective way to alleviate stress. Practitioners use items such as rubber balls, rubber bands, and sticks of wood, and crystals to assist in their work. Reflexology practitioners include, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists. There are other health care professionals that also use this as a complimentary health treatment to standard medical care.

According to the University of Minnesota’s extensive research in the matter of Reflexology, it has many benefits for an individual that may be willing to try an alternative health modality.

Benefits of Reflexology as per the University of Minnesota:

1.Reflexology has an impact on specific organs (e.g., MRI readings demonstrated an increase in blood flow to kidneys and to the intestines)
2.Reflexology can demonstrate an amelioration of symptoms (e.g., positive changes were noted in kidney functioning with kidney dialysis patients)
3.Reflexoogy creates a relaxation effect (e.g., EEGs measure alpha and theta waves, blood pressure was decreased, and anxiety was lowered)
4.Reflexology aids in pain reduction (27 studies demonstrated a positive outcome for reduction in pain (e.g., peripheral neuropathy of diabetes mellitus, kidney stones, and osteoarthritis)

Always speak with your Primary Care Physician for evaluation/consult prior to starting any kind or type new healthcare regimen.

For more information click here

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Spaces (inbtw) Thoughts

7777As we move through our days millions of thoughts stream through our minds like a running brook carrying us to places we like and places we dislike. The mind’s function, at least in part, is to actually think thoughts. Yet, there is another function that has become evident – to notice the spaces in between the thoughts.

Like the breath that transitions from an inhale to exhale, exhale to inhale, there exists a space, a slight pause before each inhale becomes and exhale and each exhale becomes an inhale. Confused yet? Good, that tends to get our minds out if it’s habitual way of thinking and for at least a moment, we experience this () space.

So how on Earth do we find this space in between our thoughts and why should we? Well, why not I say since it exists for some unknown reason far beyond my understanding AND since it provides relief and perspective to this wild roll coaster we have affectionately come to know as – Life.

Sample practice to get in touch with the space in between our thoughts as one can do this countless ways:

  • Wherever you are, start there – pay close attention to each and every thought as one thought (conveniently?) links to another.
  • Slow your thoughts down 1( )by( )1
  • Feel the aliveness in your body
  • Connect with your breath and the spaces that exist after each exhale and each inhale

…now that some awareness has arisen, be aware of what you go filling up all that space with…

“Three  things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the  truth” ~Buddha

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Trip for the Mind – Replacing Negative Thought Patterns

MindVery often there exists particular negative thought patterns that repeat themselves over and over again more than other thought pattern in our minds. It’s as if we are the main character in this ever evolving story playing itself out and since we are “in it”, we can’t always see our thought patterns clearly.

During this daily unconscious  and sometimes conscious process, we accidentally make these negative thought patterns stronger purely by default. What I mean by this is that the more we think a thought, like a roadway in our mind, the more defined and set this thought pattern becomes. Just like anything else, the more we do something the more set it becomes and the more unconscious and automatic it becomes.

The danger in this is that the more automatic and unconscious we are of these negative and repetitive thought patterns, the more they shape our mind and impact our lives. Time goes by and all of a sudden we realize we are in a completely different place mentally and emotionally without even the slightest inclination of how we got there – we just suddenly arrived there. By this time we are already set in this negative cycle of thought that it is now who we have become.

This automaticity that is part of who we are is always at work both consciously and unconsciously. How then does one work with this so that we can create patterns in our minds that better serve our growth? Try this mental exercise and see how it plays out throughout your days.

  • First Layer: wherever you are, notice which negative thought pattern repeats itself the most throughout the day
  • Next Layer: with this awareness, each time that negative thought pattern emerges literally think the exact opposite
  • Final Layer: continue this process with each habitual negative thought pattern

By doing this you start to create new neural pathways in the mind, new route ways in the complex matrix that is the mind thereby setting new patterns. Start with the most conscious thought patterns and work your way towards the more subtle ones slowly. Once you have a handle on this you can begin the unconscious search progressively, remembering that it is the actual process that yields the end results therefore, rushing through is not required. Enjoy the mind search…

Photo By: Don Schultheis

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Yoga Philosophy: Yoga Sutra-s I.2

Yoga Sutra I.2

yoga citta vṛtti nirodha = yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain focus in that direction without any distractions

Yoga – introduced in Sutra I.1 and it is the subject matter defined for this sutra
Citta  – mind
Vr̟tti  – activities
Nirodhaḥ – to envelop

Flower:MindIn Sutra I.1 Patanjali introduces the subject matter of the entire text which is yoga.  In this Sutra, Patanjali goes on to define what the subject matter of yoga is and therefore this Sutra is known as the Lakshana Sutra which means it defines yoga.

So what is yoga? Yoga in essence is our ability to direct the mind in a chosen location for a sustained period of time without distractions. Yoga then is about the mind. We must naturally then ask what is the mind and what are the activities of the mind? Patanjali gets to this in the next few sutras more in-depth but first he establishes the definition of yoga. If we were to use one word to sum up the definition of yoga it would be concentration.

Although we see yoga today as being very physical it is important to understand that the physical aspects of yoga are indeed a big part and necessary for getting to the subtle layer that is the mind. It is very difficult to work on the mind since it is not tangible; we can’t see it, touch it, taste it and so forth. Because the mind is abstract it’s hard to work on it. Thus, yoga has found a way to work on the mind – through the body.

In this direct definition it becomes clear that yoga can look like many things; running, swimming, riding a horse, cooking, cleaning and so on. As long as we are focusing the mind exclusively on something without being distracted our mind is enveloped and all the activities (which we will get to in a few sutras) are focused, we are doing yoga.

If we think about, thousands of years ago when yoga was established the folks then were in great physical shape since they literally had to walk miles just to get water, work hard to get food and in general lived a very active life. Being in shape was not an issue like it is today due to overall lifestyle. Suffering was continual and it was noticed that this suffering was rooted in the mind. To get to the mind they used the body as a preliminary step and what a genius step to reach the more subtle layers of who we are. There must have been this recognition that the body and mind are inextricably linked and that by working on the body there would be a ripple effect on the mind.

Experiential Reflections

So now that we have the definition of yoga, what’s next?  Experiment for yourself how difficult it is to keep the mind focused solely on one thing. Pick anything like a tree swaying, the moon, a mountain, the ocean, a sound, a positive word, and see how long you can envelop the mind with this object. Notice how quickly the mind starts to think about something else, how quickly we start to label and judge things, how quickly we waver and become distracted. Try it out for just 1 minute and see what happens. To know what the definition of yoga is we must know what it is not…

Why do this? Well, it seems that we endure mental suffering daily to some degree and if we take a closer look it becomes evident that a lot of the pain we experience in our lives is due to the thoughts that we have about ourselves, others, and the world around us. What if there was a way to better understand the nature of the mind and thereby assist in the reduction of mental suffering?

Could be worth finding out especially when we look around and see how much suffering goes on for ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us. If we can positively change ourselves we can positively change the world, the ripple effect here of the body-mind as we are a piece of the Whole, a body part of the Mind. Too often do we blame everyone and everything else for our suffering and too often does this take us right back to deep suffering.

Perhaps some self-experimentation can lead us out of the daily turmoil and create a pathway to becoming better human beings overall. Only one way to find out – embarking on the quest that is the excavation of Self…

Have some fun experimenting with it and next to come is breaking down this thing we call “MIND”.

Photo By: anurag agnihotri

Categories: Relaxation Space, Yoga & Meditation | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Patience

Zen & PatiencePatience has been defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”. Sounds simple? Well not when we realize we have been throwing tantrums since we were infants! With such a long withstanding pattern, how does one break out of this?

Let’s take a closer look at the nature of patience:

From a psychological perspective, impatience is mainly a person’s inability to withstand a certain irritating emotion. The less you can stand irritation and emotional pressure the more impatient you will become. Patience is studied as a “decision-making” problem, involving the choice of either a small reward in the short-term, or a more valuable reward in the long-term. Studies have shown that when given a choice, all animals (humans included) are inclined to favor the short-term rewards over long-term rewards. This is despite the often greater benefits associated with the long-term rewards.

What does this say about us? Well, one aspect this highlights is that even though we may rationally and logically know something as a “truth”, there is something very strong inside of us that overrides this – emotions like anger, irritability, shame, blame, discontent and so on.  These emotions are so uncomfortable that we need them to go away as fast as possible, thus this need to act immediately arises in an attempt to dissipate these very raw, uncomfortable and negative feelings in the form of impatience.

Through experience we can begin to see a pattern emerging – this quality of impatience does not solve the actual issue but rather provides temporary relief of that moment until we get to the next moment. We can foresee then how many more moments will come our way riddled with feelings we want to get rid of. So I ask, do we get rid of these uncomfortable emotions or do we seek to understand them further by staying in them and exploring them deeper?

From a mindfulness perspective, patience is the ever-present alternative to the mind’s continual restlessness. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn,

“Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It’s the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it. From the perspective of patience, things happen because other things happen. Nothing is separate and isolated”.

Since the surface is anger, what then lies beneath it? This is different for everyone and it is only through self-exploration that clarity on this can arise.

Practical applications to cultivate clarity and patience:

So, why bother cultivating patience? Well, to put it simply, to understand ourselves and the world around us better. With patience, our relationship with ourselves and others improve. Here are some mental exercises to cultivate the quality of patience:

  • Awareness:  Realize those moments where you are uncomfortable. Notice where you are, who you are with, what your feeling, thinking and the tendency in yourself to become impatient. What action do you feel like taking in that moment? Approach yourself with curiosity and see what is actually happening in these moments inside of you. By focusing on what’s actually happening inside you, you begin to notice the dismay, not wanting what’s happening, the resistance.
  • Reflection: What was your initial reaction to these uncomfortable feelings? What action did you take and why? What was said/done or not said/done by both yourself and others? What does this all mean about the layers of your feelings? Take your time with this and write it down. This will give you a chance to clarify and process.
  • Acceptance: Without self-judgment and without trying to change anything, sit with your real thoughts and feelings and stay in this uncomfortable and authentic place. Give yourself the chance to experience pain and suffering till the point of acceptance.  Suffering has its purpose and can point us to the inward direction of finding real solutions rather than temporary relief.
  • Action: Now that you have explored the depth of impatience and have widened your perspective, ask yourself what possible actions are called for now and why? Make a decision from a more calm and grounded place where your emotions and thoughts have had a chance to integrate.

 “Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”  Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

Photo By: h.koppdelaney    License: Creative Commons

Categories: Green Room, Mind | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Sitting

Outside-InNot only is meditation difficult because we are trying to focus the mind in one direction, but it is also difficult to literally just sit the body down on the ground and be still. When we sit it becomes quite clear that our backs are in pain, our hips are stiff and our legs fall asleep fairly quickly. This makes it almost impossible to focus the mind on anything else but the physical pain we feel – as if we needed another added distraction!

Below are some tips to help get the body comfy enough to sit still for the other million mental distractions to surface without the added physical strain. This technique is helpful so the body does not become a hinderance to the mind. Stretch and strengthen the body daily to prepare it for longer sits to explore the mind even deeper.

  • Sit either on the floor or in a chair with your back fully supported
  • Relax the shoulders away from the ears 
  • Extend the spine and keep the head and neck aligned with the spine
  • Let the hands fall naturally where they may
  • Be still and breathe until the body is ready to move out of stillness

“There is a wisdom inside of us that tells us what to do at certain moments. We can wake up that wisdom through meditation practice until, eventually, the process becomes quite natural for us and takes place on a subconscious level” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo By: Judy    License: Creative Commons

Categories: Relaxation Space, Yoga & Meditation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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