Dr. John Aguilar, Jr, DAOM, EAMP

Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Placing the Cart Before the Horse (or Acting Before Knowing)

In General, Mind & Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga on June 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm

In my continued studies of the Chinese medical Heart system and the Anahata cakra of yoga, I’ve come back, again (for the nth time), to the simple concept of stillness preceding movement, as the natural order of things. In matters of health, illness, and healing, this simple concept has far-reaching and immediate implications.

In Chinese medicine, there is a central aspect of the Heart that is the void. Even on a gross, mechanical level, the heart organ, as a pump, is absolutely dependent on its emptiness to maintain its function. A clogged, blocked pump is a broke pump.

On the more subtle levels of being, this void is just as important to our healthy living. Where the emotional heart clings, holds onto thoughts and emotions, the person suffers, and where the heart experiences, but allows all to flow through, the person can find peace.

When holding this peaceful void, this presence to experience without attachment or holding onto, a person is set – open – to receive.

What does a person receive, in their hearts, through their hearts, when they are able to enter that stillness?… Awareness, knowingness, an understanding through clear perception – direct perception of reality, as it is, uncolored by the “knowledge”, based on experiences, of the mind…

Truth, in a word.

This is neither distant, nor difficult. It happens all the time, every moment, right now. It’s just not, currently, as… efficient as it could be.

Think of your attempts to know something. It happens nearly constantly, but try to feel the movement from the very beginning. If you’re quick – really, really quick – you can catch that very first impression, that initial knowing.

Within a billionth of a second, though, the mind enters. The thinking, analyzing, comparing and contrasting, measuring and judging intellectual mind jumps onto the scene and immediately distorts that original, crisp impression.

You knew, but then you questioned…

You still know, but continue to doubt. The servant has become the master…

And that would be fine, if there were nothing to do, nothing important about life. But there is. We have decisions, big and small, countless of ‘em a day.

Now, thinking about the opening lines – stillness preceding movement – we always begin in stillness, such is the nature of things, but our actions tend not to be guided, rooted in that stillness and the awareness that such stillness invites, but, instead, we act based on all the rumblings and frenetic actions of that thinking mind.

Going no further, it is already evident how a life lived rooted in the ceaseless movements of the mind simply can’t lead to real happiness or true health.

Simply put, the mind analyzes, but it’s the heart that knows.

Think of walking around a house you’re unfamiliar with, eyes closed. You’re looking for a box sitting on a shelf, in a room, on the second floor.

Undoubtedly, the analytical mind can be of service. You can reach all around you, taking in input from what you touch. You can walk around and adjust which direction you go based on walking into objects and whatnot.

But compare that person, walking into walls, flailing about with their arms outstretched, tripping over the carpet, to the person who stops and opens their eyes…

With eyes open, and seeing the inside of the house around you, you can then use the mind as a tool, to act based on, in accordance with, and guided by the perceptions of the heart, as the analytical mind was intended.

Taking action without truly seeing, knowing with our hearts, is, essentially, stumbling through life, as if in the dark. Even if you find what you want, you won’t recognize it.

The problem, of course, lays in calming that mind so that we can hear with the heart, stilling the ceaseless mental fluctuations, so we can enter stillness, experience the void, in order to truly know.

This calming the mind is a complex topic.

Acupuncture can be practiced with this as the ultimate goal. Symptoms are specific indicators of how 1) the system is disrupted, blocking clear perception with the heart, and 2) how the person is suffering either directly from the obstruction, or more generally from not being in contact, and thus guided, by the heart. I believe this is the highest form of medicine, in fact, the only way to truly end suffering.

On a day-to-day basis, you can actively work to calm the mind to better allow awareness through the heart. Breathing is probably the quickest and easiest way to bring the active mind to a standstill.

Yoga has this concept at its core, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. A good yoga class will give you many tools, and working one-on-one with a teacher will maximize all yoga has to offer.

Tai chi is also a great tool, much in the same way as yoga.

Or, simply, just pay attention.

By merely looking, and holding attention, the mind is calmed, the heart engaged. The longer you hold such focus, the more empowered heart’s awareness becomes and the weaker, the more translucent the mind’s rumblings appear.

By acting in absence of the heart’s guidance you put the cart before the horse and risk a very… eventful life ;).

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So I’ve been studying the Anahata cakra (the “Heart chakra”)…

In General, Mind & Meditation, Yoga on June 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Unconditional love, real love, can’t be done.

It’s impossible to decide to love somebody, then just do it. Or, at least, that’s not unconditional love.

True love, that purest expression of love, flows naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly through truly knowing, seeing someone for who they truly are.

To truly love somebody, forget that desire – just let it go. You can’t willfully love someone. What you do through effort will always pale in comparison to this pure love.

Instead, try to understand that person, not through analysis, which, ultimately, inevitably, comes down to reducing them to some specific aspects or traits, then comparing those traits or characteristics to some external template of some sort, some predetermined concept of good/bad, right/wrong, and basing your “understanding” and acceptance of them on how those traits of theirs stack up against this idea in your head…

But, instead, understand through seeing them.

Look and see who they are. Look closely and without your focus being distracted by thoughts, fears, or memories…

And don’t think. Don’t think about what you see. That, again, just reduces them – the real, breathing human being in front of you – to a concept. They no longer are that person having a hard time, but the abstract concept of “a person” having a hard time, stripping them of everything that makes them them, or worse, you project onto that abstract version of a generic “person having a hard time” past experiences you’ve had with people having a hard time. Either way you are no longer even truly interacting with that person in front of you. How could you come to understand them, much less truly love them?

Strive to see them for who they truly are – Right there, right then.

And don’t stop.

If they are mad or sad, keep looking. That “being sad” is not some random thing they’re going through. Keep looking, look deeper. See how that being sad is occurring in response to a deeper experience. Look.

Be careful of asking questions, even. We are there to receive them, to receive, hear, listen… Too often questions are meant (perhaps subconsciously) to guide, direct, or suggest, to do, really, and we are there to be non-doing in a completely open, wholly receptive presence.

And if you find yourself asking questions to probe, to stimulate… perhaps they’re not in a place to give, to share, in which case it won’t happen, period.

Through looking, simply, intently looking (which, by the way, is the greatest way of showing you care, this giving of your full, undivided attention) you will slowly see. You will see that they are beautiful, truly beautiful.

You won’t “understand” it. This isn’t a defensible argument for their being a good person we’re creating…

We are simply – ever so simply, genuinely – looking and seeing that, wow, this is a beautiful human being in front of us, and from that, from that seeing and knowing directly, you will love them.

Once you see a person for who they truly are, once you see (because you really looked) that glorious, impossibly glorious, happening that is them in that moment…

Well, you’ll know. There are no words… just a perfection, a beautiful perfection of being… and you won’t be able to control it. You won’t be able to control yourself… love will just happen…

Yoga Happenings

In Yoga on May 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Whenever I sit and think about yoga, I always come back to the same thought – It’s everything! Yoga is so big and so deep, it really is everything.

In my advanced training at PranaYoga and Ayurveda Mandala, which is diving deep into the complex and beautifully comprehensive system of the cakras (aka “chakras”), I’m discovering how they are the path of personal development mapped out in the body and in the psyche. They are innate abilities and the process of exploring and developing those abilities. Within the cakras is all the glory (“beautiful” and “ugly”) of being human – They’re everything!

And so it goes with so much of yoga. You cold say yoga is a system to help you maximize – literally – the human experience. You have the physical postures through which you can fully experience the unique physical capabilities of the human being. Then, you have the meditation that acts as a guide to explore the workings of the inner self. The core classic of yoga, the Yoga Sutras, is really a complete science of the mind. Through its study one realizes all experiences, mental or physical, are, ultimately, experiences of the psyche, of consciousness itself, i.e., this foundational classic spells out how, through the study of yoga, you uncover the source – consciousness – of everything! Again, “Yoga” and “Everything”… awesome!

All this is just my justification to share with you some upcoming yoga events around the Denver-Metro area (perhaps also to entice ;)):

  • “Compassionate Yoga” now offered weekly at Amala, in Capitol Hill (1280 Sherman St., #206), beginning Tuesday, June 14th from 7:15pm to 8:30pm – “Compassionate Yoga is a gentle flow class that includes pranayama (breath practice), guided meditation, and some restorative poses. This class is based on the Yoga for Grief class series & workshops being offered around the Denver metro area through Grace Grief Yoga. Compassionate Yoga is especially helpful for those grieving, but is also for those wishing to cultivate more compassion for self and others.”
  • Yoga and Meditation in Longmont – a free day of sampling some of the offerings (including a class with a friend and fellow yoga teacher Tracy Patch) – The Meditation Place, 940 Kimbark #4, Longmont, CO TheMeditationPlace.org 303-246-8333
  • And, of course, the ongoing yoga classes I offer at 930 Logan St. Ste. 101 and 102, in Capitol Hill (full class schedule). These classes are beginning to incorporate more and more of the great things I’m learning in my advanced training, including chanting of the Sanskrit alphabet in a way that stimulates certain aspects of the cakras (and thus assisting in the unfolding that purest expression of you), the use of marma points (the Ayurvedic equivalent of acupuncture points), and breathing practices to bring it all together and advance it a couple steps further. ;)

Good, good times!

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When “Healthy” Isn’t

In Tai Chi, Yoga on March 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm

A NY Times article (1) reviewed a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2) where veteran athletes (longtime runners) were found to have scarring in the heart muscle not present in younger athletes and older non-athletes. The implication – though, obviously, far from proven, or even completely spelled out – is that excessive exercise can be unhealthy.

Once again, I find myself happy to find some ancient Chinese wisdom working its way into the popular press :).

Now, none of us are surprised that an excess can cause damage. There’s something simply instinctive about that notion.

There is an area of instinct, however, that I believe has been lost, overridden by popular opinion – the very idea of what constitutes healthy exercise.

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that you need to get an elevated heart rate for a certain amount of time, a certain number of times a week. The idea is that you have to “work” your heart to make it stronger.

This basic idea, fighting, struggling, efforting to improve yourself, in this case, your health, is deeply embedded in our minds. (It appears, to me, to be linked to the basic idea of competition being healthy, which is rooted in the idea of each person being a separate individual, thus, required to compete against other individuals, for survival – the whole thing rooted in the appearance of separateness, but I digress…)

There is “you”, there is the “goal”, and there is that which stands in your way, and you have to fight to get what you want or deserve in life. Struggle is seen as fundamental; in its absence is loss and deep suffering.

I would suggest that all of that is simply one approach to viewing the world, one possible way of interpreting existence.

Another way could be as follows: You, though appearing separate, are – at the very least – profoundly intertwined with others. There is no such thing as an action that only benefits (or harms) one individual, as no individual is truly separate. Only on the surface do actions look to damage one while lifting another.

Further, the idea of a need for conscious, willful action on the part of the individual for any hope of success is not necessary. I’m betting you have plenty of experiences of something great happening that was, actually, a surprise. You neither efforted for it, or even fully conceived of it, yet it brought happiness, success, etc.

Similarly, I’m sure you have plenty of experiences of struggling tremendously, yet not attaining goals. These stories abound, yet they typically go ignored or rationalized under the argument the person didn’t work hard or long enough…

Maybe it wasn’t the execution of the underlying belief that failed, but that the core idea, itself, is limited…

Maybe life isn’t empty in the absence of one’s active, willing, thinking mind. Maybe the trees grow despite the absence of mental intent or planning.

Maybe, just maybe, when/if you calm your mind of thoughts, desires, planning and contriving, a beautiful “plan” or idea just comes to you…

Maybe the beauty of the epiphany is that it occurs spontaneously – without effort – and from an unknown place – not the intellect.

The idea of good health only being possible with effort and struggle may have some truth to it, but, clearly – to use more scientific language – it’s limited in its applicability. Maybe you can grow stronger without being beat down.

This alternate hypothesis happens to be the stance of classical Chinese medicine. Now, clearly I’m biased, but when that system which is defined by being the accumulated wisdom of countless generations of sages and physicians says it’s not necessary to deplete yourself so that you can grow stronger, I gotta listen.

In a way, the approach of stimulating a system, provoking a system to do its job, in order to achieve some larger objective, as with breaking down a muscle to force it to regrow stronger, or challenging the immune system to force it to become more active, truly reveals that fundamentally individualistic reasoning – there’s you, then there’s your immune system – but, also, a certain ignorance.

If you knew how the immune system worked, you would more likely work with it to grow stronger, as opposed to standing on the side of the street chucking rocks at it to get it all riled up… wouldn’t you?

Such is the case with Chinese medicine. It is the grand collection of experiences with the human being, in health and illness. It sees behind the veil of separation and, thus, can side with the body to make it stronger.

This is how acupuncture works. I love showing my patients how teeny-tiny the acupuncture needles are and telling them “There’s no way this little thing is going to make you better! It’s you making you better!”

Only in extreme situations does the physician need to step in to replace the abilities of the body. For the vast majority of health issues, the body has the ability, potential, and wisdom to find health, but, again, I digress :).

Healthy exercise simply makes the body more healthy and stronger. Not by forcing it into a corner, but by building it up. It’s so simple it borders on silly.

The body is designed to be strong. It’s designed to resist disease and fully recover when the uncommon happens. Only through obstruction of this basic instinct does disease arrive.

Health, then, is not a matter of making the body be or do anything more than what it already is and forever, spontaneously strives to do.

Healthy exercise clears the way for health; it doesn’t force health upon you.

Tai chi and yoga are the great examples that I’m aware of. They are based on the idea of opening up the flow of energy through the body. This flow is both the fuel and wisdom to function properly.

These systems of exercise are designed to help the body simply be true to its own, inner design. (They are, necessarily, based on deep understanding of the body, allowing them to work alongside you in health, as opposed to meeting you head-on in a battle of who is stronger – you or your body… kinda crazy, isn’t it?)

As was said at the outset, there is some truth to the idea of “struggle” in obtaining better health. Neither Tai chi, nor yoga is completely easy. It takes a certain type of effort.

The difference is that the struggle is always aimed at re-engaging parts of yourself that have become isolated. The struggle is in removing obstructions, reconnecting.

Physically, this is difficult (think of working out lots of knots during a good massage), but it is also very challenging mentally and emotionally. These things, these parts of ourselves that are stuck on the other side of the obstruction have been locked out for awhile; re-enlivening them can cause much discomfort.

Think of an arm that has fallen asleep and the “pins and needles” accompanying the fresh flow of blood. Then, add on the emotional component of re-experiencing events/thoughts/feelings that have been held, cut off from conscious awareness in the unconscious…

Attaining good health isn’t easy but you can see how it’s not really “forced”, in the way that forcing yourself to get up and run in the mornings is.

The reward for truly improved health is also far different than that fleeting feeling of having accomplished a goal of so many push-ups done or miles ran. Good health reconnects you to spirit, the divine, the ultimate, most deep, yet highest state of life. It is as inspiring as it is exhilarating.

So, rather than “work hard”, I’d say engage. Engage in life. If you must, struggle to return to health…

and do more yoga! ;)

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1. Reynolds, G. When Exercise Is Too Much of a Good Thing. NY Times, March 9, 2011.

2. Wilson, M. et. al. (2011). Diverse patterns of myocardial fibrosis in lifelong, veteran endurance athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21330616.

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Yoga, Tai chi, and Meditation Classes

In General, Tai Chi, Yoga on February 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

Come March, it is on!

As of Tuesday, March 1st, I will be offering (almost) daily yoga classes, and regular Tai chi and meditation classes.

My yoga classes are based on the Kripalu tradition, where (self-) awareness is paramount, yet is influenced by my Taoist and Shaolin studies and training, as well, so expect some strength training blended in. ;)

The Tai chi classes will focus on the Yang family style, emphasizing the health aspects of this profound martial art. All Tai chi classes will begin with yoga postures and breathing as warm up, followed by Tai chi training.

The meditation classes will be based on classical yoga, with the powers of focus and concentration being trained, mixed with my Taoist studies of seeking the Source.

The schedule will be as follows:

Tuesdays
Yoga: 5-6:30pm
Tai chi: 6:30-8pm

Wednesdays
Yoga: 6-7:30pm
Meditation: 7:30-8:30pm

Thursdays
Yoga: 5-6:30pm
Tai chi: 6:30-8pm

Fridays
Yoga: 6-7:30pm

Saturdays
Yoga: 8:30-10am
Tai chi: 10-11:30am

Sundays
Yoga: 5-6:30pm
Meditation: 6:30-7:30pm

Fee Schedule
$15 per class (package of 10 classes for $100 is available)
Free for current patients

All classes will be small, emphasizing closer interaction between student and teacher.

In order to prepare, I ask for advance notice of your expected attendance (day of for evening classes, day prior for morning classes).

Please see DenverChineseMedicine.com for full details, including info about Tai chi and yoga.

Please email me or call, 720-284-1374, with any questions.

To your health, happiness, and peace! ;)

The Energetics of Ethics, Part II

In Mind & Meditation, Yoga on February 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

In the first part, we talked about how there is a basic, instinctive, negative reaction to violence and lying. I suggested that, maybe, the near-universal list of moral conduct, such as don’t lie, cheat, steal, etc., is actually based on fundamental human nature. That is, by instinct, by basic, innate nature, most would avoid doing those things.

I also linked the “violation” of this innate code with internal energetic blockages. When we break one of the rules, we feel it; we just feel bad, different and separate from rationally judging ourselves for having gone against some objective “right” action.

This bad feeling is a response to injury, just as cringing when we stub a toe. The injury caused by some immoral act is an internal obstruction of energy. I, personally, describe the feeling as a “kink”, or a wrinkle, one that I know, if I want to get rid of the feeling, I will have to iron out at some point (and, thus, I hate causing wrinkles).

In traditional yoga – a complete, fully comprehensive system of health and healing – the moral code is contained within the yamas and niyamas (technically, “abstentions” and “observances”). I believe they are part of a system of health and self-realization because of the importance of adherence to basic nature.

Health is a reflection of the body and being acting as they are designed to. Physiologically, health is the free flow of prana (something like energy, qi, in Chinese medicine). Where that flow is diminished or obstructed, disease ensues. As immoral acts obstruct that flow, they are unhealthy.

Hence, yoga incorporates the yamas and niyamas in the same way and for the same reason it includes postures and breathing practices. And classical yoga actually defines the “Eight Limbs” of yoga, which includes those practices, as well as the higher practices of meditation.

There’s an interesting twist we can put on things, here. As the yamas are the first of the eight limbs, and ahimsa, non-violence, is the first yama, it is suggested that that is the most important yogic practice (according to “Classical” yoga, as laid down by the sage Patanjali, in the highest written authority on yoga, the the Yoga Sutras.)

In following, practicing non-violence sets the foundation for the higher practices of postures and the highest of meditation. That is, the spiritual aspirant would avoid harming others (and self) just as they would practice the physical postures. It’s all considered yoga.

The twist, when understanding morals as basic to good health, is that any movement towards better health will result in more moral conduct. You can actually gauge progress, or state, based on the spontaneous actions of an individual. The person that just, naturally, is more kind and honest is, most likely, in better health.

This may seem a bit odd, but, again, when we realize that such conduct is a natural expression of the human being acting freely, according to their inner nature, i.e., when they are healthy, it becomes quite obvious.

Try another mental exercise. Imagine someone who lies a lot, maybe someone you’ve met, or maybe you have to visualize them. Think about watching them, or, if you can, walk in their shoes for a bit… How does it feel?

Pretty icky, if you ask me. They simple aren’t happy. The lies and deceit are a direct reflection of their unhappiness in life. There may be some very superficial and very temporary moments of feeling okay, tied to the the avoidance of pain implicit in deceit, but they are deeply unhappy people.

Now think of people that tend towards violence. Again, these people aren’t at peace. There’s fear, chronic anxiety or worry. The immoral conduct is an expression of their internal “off-ness”.

Now, think of the genuinely kind people. They just seem… healthier! There’s more flow, more glow. It’s, clearly, a better place.

And when you are forced to lie about something, you most likely feel bad about it. It may actually make you sick to your stomach, at least until you can apologize and “make it right”.

There is so clearly a connection between health and righteous actions. Yoga just made a point of putting it all together.

To take this one step further, and perhaps a bit more controversial… Think about the effects of past “bad” things you’ve done. Again, not things that you (or another) has judged as wrong, but the actually bad things you’ve done.

Are they still there? Are those things still with you? Do you still feel bad?… and the rough question – Have you actually buried some of those thoughts and feelings because they were so gross feeling and so persistent, you had to cover them up, forget them, or “move on”?

The therapeutic action of yoga, as well as acupuncture, is the opening up of obstructions. That is how they achieve their affect. Internal organ function is regulated by adjusting the flow of qi or prana through the system.

Where lies and theft block energy, they block that activity and cause harm; the system is derailed from proper functioning. It is very much like a wrinkle that needs to be addressed to be removed or, as is stated in the Chinese medical classics, like a stain that needs scrubbing or a knot that needs untying. That work is exactly what yoga and acupuncture are doing.

This simple unveiling of mind-body interconnectedness also reveals how psychotherapy can be so powerful. Speaking out loud about, opening up those repressed guilty feelings is – literally - opening up the flow of healthy energy through the body. You can feel it!

In more pure “religion”, versus philosophy, spirituality, or healing systems (a difficult differentiation to make, some times), there is the idea of “confessing” “sins” and the relief, release, and forgiveness that follows. At its core, is this any different than what we’re talking about in yoga, acupuncture, or psychotherapy?

It’s an interesting line of thought. There truly seems to be a fundamental, forgive the term, truth underlying all these various approaches.

In my studies of Taoism, specifically Complete Reality Taoism, it is said that the single most important concept or practice, above all exercises, meditative techniques, herbs, chants, etc. is sincerity. Simple sincerity. In all your thoughts and actions be sincere… so simple, but so, so powerful… Honesty, forthrightness, first with yourself, and with others.

Being true to yourself, to your inner nature, is the clearest path to health, happiness, and, apparently, enlightenment! What a fun journey! :)

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The Energetics of Ethics

In Mind & Meditation, Yoga on February 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

There are some basic “rules” to life that most agree on, such as not hurting others, not lying, not stealing, and so on. In yoga, these are referred to as the yamas and niyamas.

Here, I’d like to take a slightly different angle on the how and why these are important. Specifically, I want to talk about why they’re important for health, on a very deep, energetic level.

Let’s take one that is foremost in the yoga tradition, ahimsa, non-violence.

I’d kinda like to pretend, for a moment, that we have no pre-existing ideas or beliefs about what’s right or wrong. It’s important, here, to suspend any mental conceptions about right/wrong, good/bad. Let’s drop it all and go with direct experience, immediate feeling without interference of thought or judgment.

Now, imagine you’re walking down the street, just taking a stroll, enjoying the warm weather and looking around at the gently swaying trees. You hear the screeching sound of tires, look up, and see two cars collide in the intersection – Stop – How do you feel? What’s that immediate reaction, inside?

Now, different day, imagine, you’re sitting at the coffeehouse, enjoying some peppermint tea. You get up to go to the bathroom and you accidentally bump into another person. You turn just in time to see their hot coffee splash all over them and the look of pain contort their face – What’s that immediate gut reaction you have? How does it feel?

For a twist, let’s say you just got yourself a nice, hot cup of coffee when someone scoots their chair right into you and you spill your coffee all over yourself. Immediately following the explosion of pain, is a flaring of anger. You yell at them and they shrink back in guilt – How do you feel?

In all of these, you were witness to violence of some sort. Without any thought or rational analysis of how you “should” feel, what’s the right or wrong way to feel, there was most likely a visceral reaction. Can you identify it? What’s the most basic, primal reaction, to seeing, or being part of, violence?

To help tease out what’s happening inside of you, we can look to another basic rule of life – to not tell a lie.

This can be difficult to work with, since, let’s be honest ;) , a lot of people lie a lot. We’ve become sort of accustomed to whatever visceral reaction we may have to it simply because we’re forced to do it a lot.

But stop and think. Imagine you’re talking to a good friend. You actually lost that CD you borrowed, but it’s been a long day, and you really don’t want to have to deal with their reaction, so you tell them you just forgot it at home.

In that moment, that instant, how do you feel inside? Without any thought, what’s the feel?

In my opinion, (and, as you probably know, my opinion is highly biased towards interpreting everything in relation to health) these rules that seem to crop up in so many religions aren’t so much about avoiding any kind of punishment, or even to help everybody just get along (though, those may be nice side benefits :) ).

To me, it’s about health. And, from health, enjoyment of every, any, thing else. These rules help you find and enjoy better health.

How? Well, that takes us back to your visceral reaction to violence and lying. Even if you can’t fully identify how it feels, I bet it just feels bad. It feels off. You kind of get that instinctive cringing feel.

I, personally, describe the feeling as getting a “kink” in you somewhere. Something kind of shuts down, or locks off. Lying creates a little blockage in you, somewhere. Being exposed to violence kind of locks up some of your energy.

Take a second and explore for yourself. There seems to be a kind of shutting off, shutting down… a kinking of energy.

Both in Chinese medicine, as well as yoga, health is based on the free flow of energy (to greatly simplify things). Organ function is dependent on not only physical energy to run, but the guidance that comes from that energy (qi, in Chinese medicine, prana, in yoga). Any disturbance in the flow of energy results in diminished function of the system. Over time, actual symptoms arise.

This all makes the most sense in traditional yoga, as it explicitly discusses morals, physical exercise, and health all in the same breath and links them all together.

In the traditional “Eight Limbs” of yoga, the moral code comes before the postures. That is, they are, arguably, more important, fundamental to the system and goals of yoga. You could argue that it’s pointless to clear the energy channels, through postures and breathing, if you’re just going to kink ‘em up by lying, cheating, and stealing.

Seriously, just imagine a great yoga class (or any physical exercise, if you don’t do yoga). Imagine how you feel after – free, open, relaxed, peaceful. Now, imagine seeing that car accident, or lying to your best friend…

It really jacks-up that good feeling, doesn’t it? At the very least, you have to do some rationalization to fend off or minimize that icky feeling.

So these things, to me, aren’t about following the rules, or doing what you’re “supposed” to do (I like that saying, “Don’t should on me”).

It’s about good health, which is, of course, the only way to really, fully enjoy life. Good health is the vehicle by which all other “good” things are experienced. It’s the one thing that acts as the funnel through which all worthwhile things are experienced – or blocked, diminished, or prohibited, depending on how well things are going…

So forget doing what’s “right”. Do what your body, your very being, just knows what’s best.

We’re designed to be healthy. As long as we don’t get in the way, health is what will happen. Perhaps all these philosophies and religions espousing these lists of do’s and don’ts are simply trying to guide us to act according to our own, true nature?… Hmm…

;)

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Up the Awesome of Your Weekends

In Yoga on February 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Maximize your weekends by beginning and ending ‘em right!

Now offering two yoga classes Saturday morning

8:30 to 10am and 10 to 11:30am

and, then,

Sunday, 5 to 6:30pm.

FREE for current patients
$10 drop in

Love life just a little more. ;)

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The Hidden Benefit of Exercise

In Mind & Meditation, Yoga on February 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Everyone knows they should exercise, and they know, for the most part, why it’s so good for them.

There are some benefits, however, that I have yet to see anywhere in popular press. It may sound a little odd, but proper exercise leads to spontaneous insight into life and self. If your exercise regimen is truly healthy for you, mysteries of life and existence will reveal themselves. No joke. ;)

One reason that may sound odd is due to the fact that exercise, in the Western world, is heavily touted as a physical event. That, plus the subconscious belief that mind and body are two different things, perhaps, with some connection, leaves us with the idea that exercise may release stress, but cognitive or emotional benefits pretty much end there.

Well, in the ancient studies of yoga and Chinese medicine, mind and body are understood, simply, as varying expressions of a common source reality. They are are much more like different qualities , such as the temperature and smoothness of skin, than two different things, like two different body parts.

This is most clear when it comes to the traditional understanding of exercise. For example, the yoga postures, as well as chanting, and breathing practices, were used as tools to calm the mind, with improvement in physical health a mere side effect. The goal was self-realization, not to lose weight (you simply lost weight on the way to enlightenment :)).

The same is true in the Chinese arts, such as qi gong (aka “chi kung”). Visualization, varying points of focus within the body, and constant presence of mind (“Focus, Daniel-son!”) are as much a part of the “exercise” as whatever the physical body is doing. The “goal” of qi gong is primarily mental and emotional, with physical benefits traditionally considered secondary.

“How”, or “why”, mysteries reveal themselves is obvious, from the physiological perspective of yoga and qi gong. As energy runs through the body, directing, guiding, and fueling all of the body’s various processes, so, to, does it run through the mental sphere, as thoughts, memories, emotions, and feelings. Energy is one, but can be experienced in different ways – physical or mental/emotional. (Really, it almost seems obvious, when you think about it…)

“Awareness”, then, that is, becoming conscious of something previously obscured is just like increasing circulation to tissues and parts of the body previously undernourished. One is the correlate of the other.

When you move energy to remove obstruction (the core premise behind the healing properties of yoga and Chinese medicine), you are opening not only physical blockages, but mental/emotional ones, as well. That opening of mental blockages is the very act of gaining insight.

It’s important to point out that these insights are, by definition, spontaneous. They, literally, just come to you.

That is to say, you don’t “figure things out” by “thinking” about them, while exercising. You exercise, with full concentration on the exercise, and these little epiphanies start popping in your head like popcorn.

Which leads to the other important point – You have to be paying attention to hear these insights. In traditional yoga and qi gong, your concentration was more important than the specifics of the physical aspects of the exercise. Just as the mind is affected in good exercise, it is prominent in doing the exercise. In truth, you’re understood as primarily training the mind.

For those who exercise while listening to music, watching TV, or doing anything else not only miss training the mind, but all the deeper benefits that exercise can bring. (The difficulty in stopping the habit of needing mental distraction while exercising indicates the need for such training of the mind that healthy exercise incorporates…)

For more on the benefits of exercise, as well as key indicators that your exercise regimen, no matter what it consists of, is healthy, see the exercise section of my website.

Here’s to your health! :D

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Body-Mind???

In Mind & Meditation, Yoga on February 5, 2011 at 9:56 am

The connection between the body and the mind has received a lot of attention lately. Some are even going as far as claiming something much greater than a mere connection, that they are merely reflections of the same underlying reality, two sides of the same coin. But what does this mean, exactly? What’s actually being said, here?

This being a blog, I will only come at this from one angle and only touch on it briefly, but I think there’s a simple change in perception one could make to shed light on this mind-body concept.

First, let’s root out the source, the common thread to mind and body. Let me ask you this – What does everything you will ever see, ever do, ever experience have in common? If you traveled to every country, read every book, saw every movie, what one thing would remain the same?

It’s you, of course. No matter what you do or see, you are doing and seeing it.

Now, what or who do we mean when we say “you”? Think about yourself ten or twenty years ago. Are you any different? Do you look different? Do you think about things differently? Have you learned and changed over the years?

Some people would say they’ve changed drastically, perhaps they have grown up a lot. Maybe they’ve had life altering experiences that forever changed who they are.

So, then, if there’s the you, right now, looking back, and there’s the you of back then – two yous – there is, obviously, a third, the one seeing the two. Who’s seeing you, now, and comparing it to the you of yesteryear?

My point is there is a you, the one that is observing all these things, places, events, even changes of yourself over time, that is separate from all those things. We’ll call it the “witness” you, the observer you.

Importantly, this witness is not defined by character and personality traits. That was made evident by the fact that those things can change, quite drastically even, and, yet, there is still some you that didn’t change, that persisted through all the transformations (because had the witness changed along with those things, there would be no thread, no ability to recollect those changes. Only because they happened to you, can you remember them – that you is the witness).

We could even go a step farther, and maybe weirder, and talk about the you in your dreams. Talk about a completely different reality! You can fly, know, see, and do things that the waking you could only dream of! :) And, yet, there is still that witness to all of that. All that change, all that variation, yet through all of it this witness is present.

So we have this you, this witness. This is the common theme to mind and body. This witness experiences, but is not limited to either of these other things. Obviously, if you were to lose a limb, you’re still you. You are not your hand.

You’re not your mind, either. If you were your mind, you wouldn’t be able to sit and observe how crazy it can get. Whenever you notice yourself getting really upset, you are noticing yourself getting upset – There’s the you, witness, observing another aspect of self getting upset – the witness and the mind.

You are not the thinking mind, either. If you were, you wouldn’t notice when you start thinking crazy things, but you can. You can catch yourself coming to weird conclusions through poor thinking. You notice when you’re not making any sense – Witness you notices.

Now, you may confuse yourself for your body or mind. You may think you are this witty, handsome young gentleman, but you’re not. Sorry. You’re simply witnessing “witty, handsome young gentleman” (or, perhaps, dreaming ;) ). Such confusion is a topic for another post, however…

So we have this witness that is neither body, nor mind, but is, instead, this other observer. Once you realize this, the whole connection between mind and body may start to make more sense (now, who’s noticing it make sense? Sorry, getting carried away ;) )

Where the mind and body change over time, grow longer hair, get smarter, etc., the witness doesn’t. It’s like the center of a wheel; it’s stationary, while the wheel cycles around and around.

Now, I’m gonna switch terms, here, so stick with me. This witness you is consciousness, itself. It is the act of being aware of things.

Any time you experience anything, there is that aspect that is doing the experiencing and is not that which is experienced. You are reading this; there is that aspect that allows for you to read.

Maybe it helps to think of consciousness as a portal, an opening, through which you are able to perceive things. I know, we usually get really caught up in what’s seen. I’m trying to pull your attention to the act of seeing, itself.

As with the witness you, it is that which does not change, ever.

The body and the mind are two expressions of consciousness. One is more dense and concrete, the other much less so. One is more tangible, you can grab your leg, the other is a bit more elusive.

They are both vehicles for experience, and they both can affect you. A bruised elbow hurts just as a sad movie makes you cry. You are moved by both.

This is how, in one small way, they are the same. They are both carriers of sensation, of experience, for this other you.

Clearly, they are different, but, really, they are just two different approaches to doing the same thing. There’s a huge difference between my little Honda Civic and a high-end Mercedes-Benz, yet they are the same in that they are both cars, very different, but the same nonetheless.

Once we detach a little from the mind and body, realize they are not us, simply closely connected to us, we can see how easy it is for the two to affect each other. If I’m swinging a rope in one hand and a stick in the other, they may be different, but both react and respond to me (and, perhaps, affect me, should I get sloppy and whack myself in the head).

What you eat and drink will affect your mind, even though food is physical and is digested by the physical body, because the physical body is connected to consciousness. Mind and body are expressions of consciousness, so anything that affects it, will be reflected in both.

You could say the mind and the body are repositories for your experiences. They are both vehicles, avenues through which you experience sensation, as well as the physical and mental/emotional storehouses.

Have a physical trauma, and the body “holds onto it” for awhile, until it “heals”, all physical evidence vanishing. Have an emotional upset and the mind can be changed by it, just as trauma changes the physical body, until the mind heals from it.

As repositories, the mind and body can hold on to experiences. And here’s where health and yoga come into play. The holding onto, effected by mind and body, limit and obstruct having further experiences and the degree to which you can experience them.

Ideally, the mind and body are like a movie screen. They can effectively convey all the experience of life, a movie, yet, when it’s over, they hold on to none of it, they remain clean.

Another analogy would be like a computer screen which relays information from the computer to you. However, at least with the older computers, the images the screen shows can get burnt into the screen, leaving a shadow or ghost of it. This ghost, this latent image, obstructs your view of new information coming from the computer.

This is exactly what causes disease. Some experience did not pass through completely and cleanly. Mentally, old thoughts and feelings inhibit our ability to experience new emotions completely. The old distorts the experience of the new.

Physically, it’s much easier to see. Any old injury clearly limits your physical ability to do new things.

Health is opening up, cleaning out these old, latent impressions, these old experiences, and this is exactly what good yoga does (and why it’s so much better than typical exercise). It is designed, specifically, to clean out the mind and body. That good feeling you have after is simply a more perfect experience of reality, one less obscured by those blockages.

Over time, after enough clean up work, you can experience life like a child, everything new and exciting, finding tremendous joy in even the most simple things.

And because mind and body are one, you also experience improved physical health along the way.

Pretty sweet, huh?

Speaking of yoga, I must get to this class to go work with these students in “cleaning” ourselves so we may experience life more genuinely, perfectly, and beautifully… :)

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Learn more about yoga classes with me
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