Pranayama practice has several benefits. These include increasing oxygen supply to the body, reduction of stress and tension, improved immunity and digestion, enhancement of the body's ability to eliminate toxins, as well as promoting balance in the mind and body. While it can be very challenging to control one's thoughts, it is much easier to control breath, which has a direct effect in calming the mind. Over time, deep breathing practices can lead to lengthening of the silent periods in between our repetitive thoughts.
Kundalini pranayama is said to have a cleansing effect on the chakras. There are 7 chakras in the body: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown, each symbolizing different energies. For instance, the heart chakra relates to one's ability to be compassionate, empathetic, and to give and receive love.
When there is an energy blockage in a chakra, there may be ill effects on the mind and body connected to its domain. To illustrate, if the heart chakra is blocked, the person may be selfish, unaffected by other people's suffering, have difficulty being affectionate and loving, feel lonely, and value their happiness at the expense of others. On a physical level, it may manifest as lung diseases, high blood pressure, heart problems and chronic upper back pain.
General signs of chakras being imbalanced include depression, fear, doubt, repression, vengeance, criticism, greed, and inability to engage in healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. Ways of balancing the chakras include pranayama, yoga postures specific to each chakra, mudras specific to a chakra, meditations focused on a specific chakra, sound healing, and yantras for each chakra.
I find it helpful to use a variety of these techniques to balance the chakras at different times. Different people resonate with different techniques and teachers. I thought I would post some helpful resources that I have tried so you can see how it works for you.
There are so many thought-provoking ideas in this video. The exercise discussed within the first 10 minutes is something I have tried and found immensely helpful. Take a sheet of paper and at the top write a cherished goal of yours. Then list up to 20 ways in which you can achieve that goal or improve your current ways of doing things in order to reach that goal. If you think of something during the day that relates to the goal, write it down. This process is thought to impact the subconscious programming in the mind so that the person is directing more attention and effort towards their goal, and consequently it is achieved more efficiently.
He mentions that what we become is what we think about all day long and that most people use only about 5% of their potential. In fact, for most people, over 90% of their thoughts repeat from day to day, thereby limiting their success potential. Try the exercise of tracking the different thoughts you have in one day and you can observe that the mind is conditioned and repetitive.
Through being more conscious of one's thoughts, fresh and innovative ideas are more likely to arise. One of the most reliable ways to create a "pattern interrupt" to the default thought cycles that constantly flood the mind is by getting in the gap between thoughts and creating an awareness of the silence found between thoughts. Gradually, the goal is to increase the time spent in the gap.
I recently attended a mindfulness for complex trauma course where the facilitator (who is a psychiatrist that facilitates mindfulness groups and has been meditating for over 40 years) shared that almost all meditators can not stay more than a few breaths without having thoughts come into their mind, herself included. The key to success lies in making meditation a habit despite self-doubts that you are not doing it correctly. If you do get lost in a thought, just bring awareness back to the breath and keep going!
I think one of the best benefits is that steady meditation practice
contributes to non-reactivity. This is useful because it means that you do not let your mood states be as immediately or intensely impacted by what other people say and do, which is determined by their own level of consciousness and current mood state. Instead, you can create better karma for yourself by choosing what you say and do, rather than letting it be automatically determined by the other person who may trigger in you a negative emotional response.
Earl discusses how we have a lot of discretionary hours after working and sleeping, and if we took just 5 hours a week to devote to increasing the capacity of our minds, the results would be out of proportion in comparison to the time spent. People tend to prioritize physical exercise as necessary to toning and strengthening the body and maintaining physical health. However, they do not devote the same time to engage in development for the mind. The mind is a muscle that gets stronger when you meditate. The reverse is also true; without meditation the mind becomes less able to utilize its full potential because without conscious awareness, we behave in ways that reflect the conditioned, unconscious mind. Therefore, many talented and hardworking people have trouble achieving their goals. Journaling one's experiences and emotions, to understand the deeper reasons for reactions, is also an excellent way to build conscious awareness.
I started my Easter Sunday morning watching this uplifting video on Super Soul Sunday live on Facebook. This man is so sweet and genuine, and he is a living example of admirable husband goals for any man. That is probably why his congregation is 58% male versus 15% male for the average church in America. In my view, he makes religion accessible and relevant at a time when younger people are growing more distant from the church for a wide variety of reasons.
He has been married for 45 years and in ministry for 40 years. The thing that makes him most proud in life is that is wife, sitting in the front row, is still able to say 'Amen' after every service when he preaches because "she knows the man and is still able to respect the man and love the man". As he said that, he began to tear up. Watch the last 5 minutes of the video for a powerful lesson on unconditional love. "We love each other for no reason and that is what unconditional love is".
The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.
I came across this passage on Facebook which perfectly captures how I feel about COVID-19. Although we are in stressful and uncertain times, I believe there are many hidden blessings. In my view, the most important thing you can do to help the world, starting on a personal level, is develop self-compassion. Times like these tend to bring out the harsh inner critic as we blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. Worry is a natural default emotion as the economy struggles under intense pressure, for many people bringing out their deepest fears and insecurities about survival. Harshness and judgement towards the self results in harshness and judgement towards others. This contributes to a collective loss of kindness that can have far more disastrous impacts than the virus itself.
It is more important now than ever before to create time in your schedule for self-care. It positively affects your energy and vitality all throughout the day and by extension improves the quality of your interactions with others. During this precious time, be kind towards yourself, and renew your sense of joy by trying something at home you've not had time for in months or even years that once was a great passion. Pleasure reading is my favourite activity in the world. Until I was in my mid-twenties, I never owned a book that I did not read and now I have several books untouched in my library! It's been a delight discovering their wisdom.
I want to do my part in healing this collective trauma that we are facing. So, if you are a health care provider on the frontlines, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 ( or are a care-taker of someone diagnosed), or have lost your job or business due to the economic impact of forced shutdowns, please feel free to reach out to me for psychotherapy sessions. I am taking on a limited amount of clients who are each eligible for up to 5 free sessions over the next 4 months.
To learn more, CAMH has some good information about the mental health effects of COVID-19 and how to cope with them. Stay safe and be well.
I enjoy reading this poem by Rumi to remind myself and my clients of the practice of consciously tolerating your emotions. Pleasant emotions are experienced as pleasurable but people tend to avoid feeling the negative emotions. Usually negative emotions and thoughts are buried, and sometimes they are numbed with alcohol, smoking, drugs or another addiction to take your mind off of what is bothering you.
Refusing to acknowledge or talk about negative emotions does not mean you have gotten rid of them or that you have risen above the tendency to feel them; they influence you both consciously and unconsciously and can manifest in negative behaviour towards a person who has hurt you at a later date. Buried resentments manifest in uglier and uglier ways as time goes on and future incidents are interpreted in light of betrayals that happened in the past. Therefore when someone says or does something that causes you to feel hurt, angry, betrayed, sad and/or unfairly treated, don't be afraid to tell them so. You could say, "I feel______when you say_____ this to me or do_______. I'd appreciate if you could keep this in mind for future." Invite others to do the same for you. In this way, there is a chance for both you and the other person to correct your behaviour in the future, rather than continuing to hurt someone you love and care for. Speak your truth and let others do the same. Consider if the other person has valid points to back up what they are saying or if you can imagine what you would feel like if you were in their shoes. If something is bothering you and you tell someone nothing is wrong when they ask you out of a belief that they should already know or talking about it won't help, you are damaging the future of the relationship. The other person will act in less affectionate ways towards you, which will cause you to do the same in return and start a cycle of emotional distance. You will not be as inclined to spend time with this person and gradually the relationship may taper off.
Realize that just because you told someone (or continue to tell them) that their words or actions hurt you and you elaborate on what they can do to rectify the situation, it does not necessarily mean they will change their behaviour or do what you are requesting of them. Sometimes they are unable to make adequate change despite their efforts to do so, sometimes they don't think they are wrong and sometimes they know they are wrong but don't care enough about you to treat you in the way you would like them to treat you. In any event, for the sake of your own happiness, you must make a decision to forgive them or make allowances if you choose to stay in a relationship with them. If they are family, you must develop coping strategies to deal with the family dynamics that are operating.
When a negative emotion comes up, don't feel the need to respond to the person right away because harsh words and impulsive actions cannot be taken back. My philosophy is that how other people treat you is their karma and what you do in response is your own karma. Rather than immediately responding, retreat to a place where you can be alone, and welcome the emotion you are feeling. Stay with it a while, don't force it away with future plans, distractions, thoughts of the past or positive thoughts and feelings. After you have sat with it a while, let it go and move on with your day. You don't need other people to validate your feelings, they are valid because you are feeling them. Do not allow others to convince you that what you are feeling is wrong. You do not need to consider in the moment whether your feelings are justifiable in the circumstances. Just allow yourself to fully feel the emotions in your body. By sitting with and tolerating the emotions, you build resilience. It will become more natural for you to deal with your emotions in a healthy, conscious way and not let them unconsciously dictate your behaviour.
Ultimately, life has its ups and downs and the beautiful emotions in life can not be truly appreciated without the more challenging ones. I believe a full life is one filled with the entire range of human emotions, as this develops empathy for others. Emotional regulation is a skill to be perfected over a lifetime and there is no better time to start than now.
Starting in April 2020, I will have office space available located at City Centre in Mississauga. The office is suitable for professionals holding client meetings. It is located at less than a 5 minute walk from Square One. The rental rate is $25 per hour or $150 for the day. Please contact me for further details if interested.