“Spend less, live more” was a slogan I recently saw related to an advertisement for a mega-chain super-store….the first thought to arrive in my mind was, at the expense of whom?
“The urge-to-separateness, or craving for independent and individualized existence, can manifest itself on all the levels of life, from the merely cellular and physiological, through instinctive to the fully conscious….it can be the urge of a part within an organism for an intensification of its own partial life as distinct from (and consequently at the expense of) the life of the organism as a whole….Let us consider first the suffering inflicted by living organisms on themselves and on other living organisms in the mere process of keeping alive…” - Huxley
As a society, we have become trapped in a perpetual pattern of consuming, which is driven by the need to fill a void. We have been conditioned to compartmentalize – an ambiance of separateness ensues. Possessions are subconsciously connected to power. Do we work jobs we hate in order to buy things we don't need to impress people who don't really matter? Our thought patterns have, in a way, been “trained” to flow a certain way, so as to not question much in order to be a conforming ‘well-behaved’ human of the world. After all, an agreeable mind is much less difficult to deal with, right?
It seems that at certain points a person may see no other way to survive other than abiding by what is socially acceptable as a means to traverse through life. What I mean by this is that one may feel a natural obligation to move through the motions of ‘normal’ human behavior as it functions best in the particular society in which they may reside – such as obtaining an education, establishing a form of stable income (career path), becoming a homeowner (supporting the economy) etc…. Because if you do not do this, what happens? Things may not flow as easily, one might say – met with resistance and a lack of resources.
Often, the most brilliant and creative ideas are held by those who have no financial means in order to transmit the idea – in fact, at times one may feel that the only thing between them and their dream is some cash flow. In this day and age, how is it exactly that one might ‘get ahead’? Many people work tirelessly to merely survive – eat, keep a roof over their head and breathe. What I am inquiring is that under said conditions, stress could potentially be rampant, which in turn may inhibit creativity – thriving of an individual. Therefore, is it possible to thrive when overwhelmed by merely trying to survive? And what impact does this have on populations experiencing this as a whole?
We know from science – the impact of stress on the human body – not only can overwhelming stress lead to serious mental and physical health problems, it can also disrupt your relationships at home, work, and school. There is a very long list of health outcomes related to body, mind and behavior, which have been correlated with chronic stress – diabetes, depression, anxiety, loss of libido, sleeping problems, quick to anger, headaches, substance abuse and hormonal disruptions such as increases in cortisol. How do we see this playing into the ‘sick care system’ health care model we see in America? For those who cannot afford health insurance for example even though they work full-time – waiting until the last moment possible to seek medical attention – usually at an emergency room or urgent care – as long as the model supports treatment instead of prevention we will always be upside down – because who ends up paying for those emergency visits? - Ultimately costing much more than preventative measures would have to begin with including education…
“For one minute, walk outside, stand there, in silence, look up at the sky, and contemplate how amazing life is” – said not very many single moms with 2-3 jobs and not a penny left at the end of the month or a full night’s sleep. Unfortunately, those without time, financial means or energy – more often than not – find it extremely difficult to mentally or physically seek pieces of life, which might bring fulfillment, joy or the ability to escape from the repetitive cycle they may be in. There is something tremendous to be said about doing a hobby vs. doing a hobby in which your survival depends upon it. Can one be enjoyed more than the other?
What I have found is, those who have experienced the most hardship in life often give the best advice – they emanate wisdom like light beams – that is if they chose to channel their energy in that way. Of course, some may choose to harbor an element of bitterness or cynicism, which is a misuse of the vital force and still – there is something to be learned from this reaction as well. There are plenty of people who have everything in the world, but are still miserable – and then plenty of people who have nothing and are extremely at peace. Is it then a matter of perspective and/or level of consciousness?
One thing that seems very clear to me is that, no matter the circumstance of life you might be in, you must find a way to make time, there’s that word again – a conscious effort to further oneself, to meditate, to move your body, to love yourself, to find connection, to breathe, to express gratitude, to think one thought at a time or none at all – even if only briefly each day – a way to find your center, to be grounded – even if the rest of your day is totally chaotic. It is inherent that we do this – in order to thrive and not merely survive as a robot on this rock orbiting through the universe.
This world may seem tough to maneuver through at times....especially when it's relating to other human beings. Like when some guy cuts you off in traffic or a cashier is rude or some person in your workplace who always seems to have an attitude with you - and you think, "who pissed in their cheerios?". For all we know, their furry friend or a relative could have just passed away or they could be facing tremendous stress related to home life, their finances, legal troubles, medical problems etc.....Overall, humans are innately "good" and desire to give and receive "love" and "compassion". You've seen a thousand examples - be it at the scene of an accident or a devastating event where there is suffering involved - humans have a natural instinct to "help" when they see another suffering - and it always re-instills our faith in humanity.
One very important fact, is that we need to meet people where they are at - in life, in this moment. Everyone is having a different human experience. It's like the saying, "put yourself in their shoes" - popular saying - not so popular to remember in the moment when someone has upset us with their behavior. So, it's really good to put this one in our back pocket and use it on a rainy day when someone has been offensive, abrasive etc. It sounds simple, but we often forget to do this and after an experience we get all wrapped up in - why did this happen? who do they think they are? - and really, it's wasted energy. That energy should be channeled into compassion. That's it. Take a step back from a given trying situation and just think compassionately for that other human or humans. Because we can sit around all day and guess why someone did this or that, but the truth is that we will never really know and frankly, we don't have any control over anything except how we CHOOSE to respond to any given situation life throws at us.
Maybe dealing with other people gets to be too much for some to handle. We live in a world where it is possible to have little to no contact with other people - which some choose to do - one can order anything imaginable from the internet - even groceries and have then delivered to your front door, without ever having to step foot out into the real world and interacting with other human beings. We have plastic relationships with people on social media sites - displaying our lives how we want them to be portrayed - disrupting actual human communication - stunting our developmental skills in the real world.
So, what do we have to do to change the way we process our encounters with other beings? We need to recondition our mind from the way it has been conditioned in our culture to be - reactive, jealous, angry, hateful, blaming, judgmental.....Our minds automatically go to a grandiose place in our minds, based on our own set of values and ideals about how humans should behave and why. But who are we? We are not them. In the big picture we are all one - however, here I am referring to the fact that we have no idea what or where that person comes from and what their upbringing was and what their belief system is in life - and ultimately, it doesn't matter because we should treat all people the same no matter what - with compassion - because we are ONE and because we understand that everyone is unique and has had a life full of experiences that have influenced them that we have absolutely no idea about. The answer is LOVE.
The only thing we truly have any sort of control over in the entire universe is our own SELF - and okay, sometimes even that, can be debatable ;) However, getting in touch with our Self, our true nature, our Atma is essential. Because once we know our true self - all the trivial things we have been worried about all our lives - melts away - life makes more sense - there is a sense of calm within the soul - we are able to traverse the waters of life without a load of turbulence. Chaos, tragedy and unexpected experiences most definitely do not stop happening - it's the way we are able to process those experiences that changes - our perspective - and once that changes - it changes everything. So, go spend time in nature, do yoga, move your body, love your neighbor, read a book - such as The Bhagavad Gita (life changer) or any of the books listed on the 'Wisdom Reads' page of this website, help out a complete stranger, trust that all is as it should be.....mostly, understand that each and every one of us is 'doing our best' - operating at a certain capacity and level of consciousness based on the 'tools' we have at any given moment.
So, next time some random person flips you the 'bird' on the highway or steals your parking space or spits gum on the sidewalk and it get stuck on your shoe or does anything that makes you feel a negative way, remember that there is something within that person or something that may be happening with that person that influences them to behave in an offensive outward manner - it's not you - it's them - it always has been - and also remember that no one can make you FEEL any way - we CHOOSE how we will react and feel. So, don't let people get under your skin - you have better things to do - give them a hug - go take a bubble bath or walk your dog or get lost in a forest. Life is just too utterly beautiful.
It has come to my attention that there is an underlying assumption among many that deters folks away from yoga, which is the belief that yoga is affiliated with religion. Yoga is a non-religious practice and activity meant to bring peace and wellness to body and mind.
According to Barkataki (2020), "It is important to address that yoga itself is separate from religion, though it has coexisted along with many" (p.13). She continues by writing, "Yoga is not under the purview of any one religion, but developed alongside Sramana traditions that emerged as Jain and Buddhist as well as Vedic and Hindu traditions and later was influenced by Islam and Christianity" (p.13).
If we lay out all the major world religions on the table, we can easily see that many of the teachings are aligned or even seem to be a direct pattern seen in yogic or Vedic teachings. I am talking about the 'bones' of the teachings, based on a code of ethics, which are strikingly similar to the code of ethics seen in many of the world's major spiritual traditions. These influence our morals, values and ultimately our behaviors in daily life. Some examples of similarities commonly found are among these are: loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, helping others, non-harming, honesty etc. These are also fundamental to the foundation which yoga is built upon. For this reason, yoga is not prejudice against any religion nor does it subscribe to any religion so as to be open and welcoming to folks with a multitude of personal preferences, belief systems and backgrounds.
The deep intention of yoga is UNITY, so as to facilitate bringing us together rather than focusing on "otherness" and separateness. At no other moment in my life have I seen a time in which unity could be so necessary for the evolution of human and planetary consciousness. So, let us come together, respect, grow, invite abundance and support one another.
If you have questions, comments or wish to discuss this topic further, the author is happy to offer a safe space to share. This blog post is meant to only be a very brief introduction, due to the depth of the topic being incredibly vast and multifaceted. The author, Rose E-RYT500, has a graduate level education in Psychology, Religion & Philosophy and has been studying and teaching Yogic and Vedic knowledge for many years.
Barkataki, S. (2020). Embrace Yoga's Roots: Courageous ways to deepen your yoga practice. Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute: Orlando, FL.
Temporary shifts in elemental balance are caused by fluctuations in our external world. Those fluctuations impact our internal world. The five elements air, ether, fire, water and Earth can fall out of balance when there is too much or too little of one or more of the elements leading to illness or dis-ease in the body and mind.
Under stress the elements in our bodies change for the worse. According to Wallace (2009) in his book Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism and Christianity, "Beginning in the late 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, developed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which is now being taught in more than 250 clinics throughout the world. As Kabat-Zinn pointed out in a meeting in 1990 with the Dalai Lama on mindfulness, emotions, and health, stress aggravates the symptoms of all known illnesses, from the common cold to cancer. So, alleviating stress with meditation can potentially have an enormous impact on our physical and psychological well-being" (p.30).
Practicing yoga and meditation has been shown by research to lead to better health outcomes. In our western society we rarely have enough time to slow down and take some steps toward our well-being. The world is filled with over-stimulation, sleep-deprivation, nutrient-deficient processed foods and the business of being "busy". This, when done over prolonged periods of time leads to depletion of mind, body and soul. Learning some simple techniques in meditation and yoga can create internal and external peace as well as potentially have some health benefits for mental and physical body. The skill of meditative practices gives you the ability to ride the waves of life with less turbulence and stress because when you are able to calm the internal waters, the external waters also become calm. Your inner world is a reflection of your outer world and visa versa.
What are you waiting for? Join Zen Den Yoga and begin your journey toward wellness. There is never a better time than now. See you soon. Namaste.
Our task as humans is to remember our origins and embark on our own individual journey of ascent through the different stages and dimensions of the Tree of Life, the ladder of existence, toward divine unity consciousness. What can we do to remember the sacredness? Here is a list:
1) write down one thing that has made you grateful to be alive
2) write ten things that are sacred to you
3) think of someone who has betrayed you and make a commitment to forgive them
4) read a short text from any of the worlds spiritual traditions that inspires you
5) when the text you're reading lights a fire inside of you, say a prayer or affirmation that aligns you with pure deep love and compassion
6) make a real commitment to spiritual practice - **just sit and watch your thoughts, in that silence is your greatest treasure**
7) reach out to loved ones - send inspiration, do anything you can to lighten their burden
8) skip one meal in 24 hrs and instead send money or donate a meal to an organization that feeds the hungry
9) find out who is suffering in your community and try to support them
10) give. Give with all your heart, as much as you can as long as you can, without expecting anything in return.
11) Say this mantra daily: "May all beings be filled with loving kindness. May all being be peaceful and at ease. May all beings be well. May all beings know happiness, the roots of happiness and be free from suffering."
Yoga in Sanskrit is "yog", meaning "to yolk". We are not talking about yolking eggs here, although metaphorically you can understand the motion of yolking together the egg white and the yolk, which in the yoga world translates to combining, mixing or coming into union with your higher self. People come to their yoga mat for all kinds of reasons, but most importantly it is because yoga gives them tools in some capacity to feel better in body + mind. Especially in our world right now during the Covid-19 pandemic we can acknowledge that this is a stressful time for most. Many are facing financial hardships, social isolation from friends and family, death and uncertainty about when the nightmare will be over.
As humans we operate well with routine and schedules. The current state of affairs has turned all of that upside down for many. With childcare and schools closed and working from home we have been forced to adjust and quickly. Considering the number of recent unemployment claims it would be safe to say that a phenomenal amount of people have lost their incomes and are having their livelihoods jeopardized. Reported domestic violence cases have increased as well as a spike in those experiencing mental health symptoms. Things are undoubtedly uncertain at this time more than ever in the last 100 years or so in the western world.
How can yoga help with embracing uncertainty right now? Much of our suffering from a yogic perspective is from attachment to the past or the future rather than the current moment. This moment means this exact breath you are taking right now. The moment that existed a second ago no longer exists and the moment that will happen in the next minute does not exist yet. Something yoga teaches us is to try to stay in the present moment, which is much easier to say than to do. However, training the mind can only be done through practice, which takes conscious and willing effort to create change. Think about how many years you have been on this planet. Now think about how many neuronal brain functions and synapses have been formed by all your experiences that are an impediment for you to be present in this exact moment during a global pandemic. It takes small, consistent steps toward recalibrating your mind.
Contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation are termed "practices" because it is a practice and practice makes perfect. While we are not striving for perfection, we as the human race need to strive toward thriving rather than merely surviving. Crisis put us in survival mode, which is driven by fear. This fear is fear of the unknown, the future, things we do not have certainty about. Yoga is the tool that can be used to bring a more peaceful mind and help us to embrace uncertainty and grasp calmness in our inner-knowing. The foundation must be strong just as warrior preparing for battle. Using yoga and mindfulness practices is one method of this warrior training. The time to start is now and the perfect time is always. We are going to be okay. We are all in this together. Many blessings to all. The light in me sees the light is all of you. Namaste.
Rose brought Zen Den Yoga to life with the intention of providing compassionate and professional yoga classes and yoga teacher training programs. Her educational background is in the holistic sciences in the areas of Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Nutrition, herbalism, reiki and consciousness studies. She is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance E-RYT500 and has taught yoga and meditation around the globe in yoga teacher training programs and retreats.
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