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20 Apr

Lucid Dreaming

“All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.”

-Edgar Allan Poe

 

You’re asleep, dreaming away, and then you realize that you are in a dream. Has that ever happened to you? If so, then you have experienced lucid dreaming. It’s like the “dream within a dream” that Poe writes about.

 

Usually during the dream state, the dream is our reality. We aren’t conscious of the fact that we are dreaming. It is only after we wake up that we can understand we were in a dream and not in reality, sometimes to our great relief! Lucid dreaming is a state in which we are aware that we are dreaming while we are dreaming. Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosophy, wrote about this in his treatise “On Dreams” sometime around 350 B.C. He says: often, when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”

 

In 1899 Sigmund Freud in “The Interpretation of Dreams” gave credit to Aristotle as being the first to recognize that dreams “do not arise from supernatural manifestations but follow the laws of the human spirit.” In 1913 Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden coined the term “lucid dream” in his article “A Study of Dreams.”

 

Today researchers estimate that about 77 percent of people have experienced lucid dreaming one or more times. Since most dreaming takes place during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, this is when lucid dreaming occurs as well. During the REM stage of sleep, most of the muscles in the body become paralyzed, so that we don’t hurt ourselves while acting out our dreams. But the eye muscles, still able to move, move rapidly. Good quality REM sleep helps improve memory, focus, and emotional regulation.

 

While it is usual to just wake up from a lucid dream, many lucid dreamers are adopting the practice of staying in the dream state and exploring the potential there. They can observe their dreams, think of them in the context of the waking world, and sometimes even control the direction of their dreams. For example, a lucid dreamer may choose to work on a challenging problem in the dream state. Before drifting off to sleep, they think of the problem for which they need a solution. In this way, they train the mind to move in the direction of their goal.

 

There are many applications to lucid dreaming that can be beneficial to a person’s life. Using lucid dreaming to help stop nightmares is called “lucid dreaming therapy.” This has also been helpful for people to overcome phobias. With this technique, the dreamer can consciously take on “superpowers” in the dream to fight back or escape from what they are afraid of, or even choose to wake up from the dream. Lucid dreaming techniques have also been used to treat depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

 

It takes time and practice to both learn and get good at lucid dreaming. If you’re up for it, here’s how you can get started:

 

1) Get good quality sleep. To have dreams, you need restful sleep, which includes as much REM as possible. Practice good sleep hygiene: keep the room cool, dark and quiet. Get to bed by 10 pm. Follow a calming bedtime routine – including no screen time at least one hour before bed. Make sure your mattress is in good condition. If it is older than 5-7 years you’re probably due for a new one. Remember that a mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep

 

2) Keep a dream journal. Many people can’t remember their dreams by the time they wake up. And as the day goes on, dream memories fade. Keep a notebook by your bed and as soon as you awaken, write down everything you can remember about your dreams. As an option, you could record a voice memo if this is easier. There are several dream journal apps for phones to keep track of your dreams as well.

 

3) Look for patterns and signs. Once you have a few dreams recorded, start looking for what images show up again and again. It might be people, or places, or themes. When you identify these signs, you’re more likely to be able to recognize when you are in a dream state.

 

4) Reality checks. Lucid dreaming experts say that we can get the brain used to the idea of noticing when we’re dreaming or not. This way we’re better able to do so while we’re sleeping. For example: While you’re awake, check the clock – look away – then look back at the clock. In the waking state, the time will stay the same. In the dream state, the time will likely change. Notice the waking state about 10 times a day, reminding yourself that you are awake.

 

5) The MILD technique. MILD stands for Mneumonic Induction to Lucid Dreaming. As you are falling asleep, repeat a phrase to yourself over and over again. For example: “I will know when I am dreaming.” By doing this you’re encouraging the brain to be aware as dreaming happens, and this increases the possibility of lucid dreams.

 

6) Go back to the dream. If you wake up from a dream, stay in bed and record the details in your journal. Then when you try to go back to sleep, focus your mind on returning to the same dream. Play it out as if you were aware of the dream until you fall asleep.

 

7) The WILD technique. WILD stands for Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming. When you wake up, instead of writing down the dream, keep your eyes closed and go right back to sleep. As you lie there, keep the mind focused and aware. Sometimes in this state, when the mind is awake and the body goes to sleep, you might become aware of “sleep paralysis.” If this makes you uneasy, remind yourself that this is temporary so that you can lucid dream, and that you are safe and comfortable. Salvador Dali, Benjamin Franklin, and Mary Shelley are known to have used this technique to help themselves dream up some of their greatest works.

 

8) Stay in the dream. Often beginning ludic dreamers get excited when they realize that they are in a dream that they wake themselves up. To stay in the dream, experts recommend that you distract the mind from the physical sensations of waking up. While in the dream you could rub your hands together, spin around, fall backwards, or continue doing what you were doing in the dream.

 

9) Video gaming. A recent study found that video gaming is associated with more ability to remember dreams. Video gamers are often immersed in a dream-like, fictional world where they have control over their movements and activities. Just make sure to stay off the screen 1 hour or more before bed to get a good night’s rest.

 

Like any skill, you need to practice and be patient as you work on lucid dreaming. The first step is just to relax and observe. Enjoy the process. Sweet dreams!

More sleep tips at : www.BetterSleep.org

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30 Jan

A Bigger Yes

We are the luckiest.An excerpt from We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen

Before Laura McKowen got sober, she had a long, successful career in public relations in the Mad Men-esque drinking culture of the advertising industry, where “liquid lunches were frequent and drinking at your desk in the late afternoon was perfectly normal.” In the five years since she stopped drinking, she has become one of the foremost voices in the modern recovery movement.

In her new memoir We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life (New World Library, January 7, 2020), McKowen flips the script on how we talk about addiction and encourages readers not to ask, “Is this bad enough that I have to change?” but rather, “Is this good enough for me to stay the same?”

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

For so long, all I could see was what I would be losing by giving up drinking — love being only one representation of many. Despite all the aphorisms and positive thinking and stories I’d heard from other sober people promising me otherwise, all I could feel was the loss. Augusten Burroughs, in his book This Is How, said that what worked for him in getting sober was to find something he loved more than drinking. I understood that intellectually, and it sounded awfully catchy and inspiring, but it just didn’t feel true for me.

Being in that room with Seane, feeling whatever had been sparking up in me — even in the midst of all the emotional angst and discomfort — I started to get it. For the first time, I could imagine chasing something bigger.

# # #

Here’s what is true, for you and for me: the grief and the sadness are real. When you give up something you’ve relied on as heavily as I relied on alcohol, even when that something is actively destroying your life, it is a true loss. You can’t deny that, and more importantly, you don’t have to.

I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling so heartbroken. How could I actively miss a thing that had nearly cost me everything, including Alma?

There was nothing wrong with me, though. Alcohol had been my friend. It had carried me through a lot of pain I might have otherwise not been able to withstand. It had softened experiences that needed to be softened. It had been there for me always, without question. My drinking — and whatever it is you do to feel better — was born of a natural impulse to soothe, to connect, to feel love. And although alcohol hadn’t actually delivered those things, it was absolutely yoked to them in my mind. In my heart and body, too. It was just what I knew.

So of course I was terrified without it. Of course I missed it. The absence of it was terrible. And necessary. Maybe it’s helpful to linger there for a minute, in the terrible and the necessary. To start to see them as the same. Maybe in this way, pain is not such a problem.

When I saw Seane up there, doing what she did, I realized it wasn’t in spite of her pain that she was doing these things but because of it. She knew exactly what it took to walk through the fire. That is what I recognized in her. That was why I believed her.

Because that strength was in me, too.

I had always quashed my pain and cut it off before it could burn all the way through. I drank it away or ate it away or disappeared into another person or work. Being there over those four days, without contact with Jon or Alma or the comforts of home, had given me a taste of what it was like to just let it burn. I felt it. I felt it all over my body. And although it was excruciating most of the time, there were a few moments when I surrendered the fight and simply allowed everything to wash over me. In those moments, I found that right alongside the sharp intensity and unease, there was some small part of me willing to stay, another voice softly saying, I am willing to be here.

Behind all those nos and never-agains is a much bigger yes. It might not seem clear now, but it will be clear soon. Listen to the voice. Listen to your body. This is in you already.

There is a life that is calling you forward, begging you to meet its eye, to glimpse its vision for you. You can get only so far by running away from what you do not want. Eventually you will have to turn toward what you do. You will have to run toward a bigger yes.

# # #

 

Laura McKowen is the author of We Are the Luckiest. She is a former public relations executive who has become recognized as a fresh voice in the recovery movement. Beloved for her soulful and irreverent writing, she leads sold-out yoga-based retreats and other courses that teach people how to say yes to a bigger life. Visit her online at http://www.lauramckowen.com.

Excerpted from the book We Are the Luckiest. Copyright ©2020 by Laura McKowen. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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28 Jan

What I Am (and You Are Too!)

I feel I am a conscious entity in which a simulation, constituting of gross and subtle objects/things, is appearing. The gross (aka physical) objects include a body and a world entering through the sense organs, in the form of gross sights, sounds and sensations. The subtle objects include thoughts and emotions (that are also just thoughts loaded with feelings) in the form of subtle sights, sounds and sensations. These objects are appearing directly in me, otherwise I would not have been able to know/experience them. It’s important to note that even though I experience a body and a world directly, I do not experience a so-called mind (which is actually a composite term used for the mind-intellect-memory-ego combo) directly. The mind-composite is only implied by the type of thoughts that appear in me. To clarify, I do not experience any specific object that I can point to and say that is the mind or the intellect or the memory or the ego. The mind is implied due to some of the thoughts being reactionary and habitual, the intellect is implied due to some of the thoughts being intelligent and analytical, the memory is implied due to some of the thoughts being of past remembrances, and the ego is implied due to some of the thoughts containing an “I” or “my” identity. I only experience these thoughts directly, along with the corresponding parts of the brain that feel active or affected during those thoughts, and never the mind-composite directly.

I further feel that the simulation that is appearing in me is just that – an appearance. I am actually untouched and unaffected by it. Even though I experience certain sensations that can be labeled as pleasant or unpleasant, they are just gross objects appearing in me but they do not affect me. Certain sensations are felt in the body like the feelings of hunger, thirst, itch, ache, etc.. And what we call mental feelings are also nothing but physical sensations felt in the brain tissues. E.g. the feeling of stress is just some brain tissues getting overly strained due to lot of thinking and the feeling of anger is just some brain tissues getting overly heated. So all mental feelings are nothing but physical sensations of brain tissues which are also sometimes accompanied with certain bodily sensations like palpitations, sweating, shallow/rapid breathing, etc. All these sensations just appear in me as gross objects and I am untouched by them. I am just a witness of them. I am like a screen that is unaffected by the movie playing on it, irrespective of how pleasant or unpleasant the movie might be.

When the objective appearances vanish and the simulation stops in deep absorption, I experience my real nature as pure existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). I do not feel any limitation of time, space, object, etc. in that state. This makes me believe that I am actually unlimited and formless but the simulation imposes an artificial feeling of being contained within a body form with all corresponding limitations. Other people also report similar simulatory experiences, but these simulations are not completely independent. They seem to share common gross objects and events which leads to the conclusion there is just one underlying reality. You, I and others are actually that one reality and not separate entities.

So, even though I am one infinite partless reality, I somehow seem to experience countless parallel simulations simultaneously as separate individuals – each forming a different viewpoint of one big simulation called the universe. It seems like the universe is one gigantic stream of events flowing constantly from one moment to another, and that I know everything that is to be known in this universe from different viewpoints. The individual simulations seem to represent different cross-sections of the universe as experienced from the viewpoints of different individuals. Or maybe there are only these individual simulations and the feeling of one universe is only incidental as these simulations seem to be interconnected sharing common gross objects and events. In either case, I am one reality of the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss with an uncanny ability of generating and focusing at countless simulations and experiencing them simultaneously and separately.

But why should I be doing this? Why can I not just remain as pure existence-consciousness-bliss without generating and experiencing these simulations within me?

Here’s the best explanation I have found:

Take the case of the eyes as an illustration. Their nature is to see. Now consider the sky. It’s so vast it cannot be seen in entirety by these tiny eyes. But when you turn your head upwards, the eyes try to see that which cannot be seen in entirety. The result is an error and the sky looks like a hemispherical dome (which it is not) to the eyes. In the same way, the nature of consciousness is to experience, so it tries to experience the one and only reality that actually exists which is itself. But the reality is infinite and not experiencable in entirety. When there is an attempt to experience the inexperiencable, an error is generated in the form of countless interconnected simulations – each with an experiencer, various experienced objects and their corresponding experiences. The consciousness aspect of the reality appears more prominently as the experiencers, the existence aspect appears more prominently as the experienced objects, and the bliss aspect appears more prominently as the corresponding experiences. So all these countless simulations are just an error produced by the very nature of the infinite reality trying to experience itself. These simulations manifest the infinite reality in a finite way so the consciousness of the experiencers, the existence of the experienced objects, and the bliss in the experiences are all finite, of varying degrees and transient instead of being infinite and permanent. Moreover, since infinite consciousness also implies infinite intelligence, these simulations are of very high quality following various types of laws both at micro and macro cosmic levels with lot of systematism and interconnectedness. They are so flawless and well-structured that they appear to be very real. But it’s important to note that these simulations are absolutely harmless as they are not actually real and are just appearances in the one unblemished reality that I am (and everyone is)!

Another question that might arise is that once this understanding of being the one infinite reality dawns upon a particular individual, what makes him/her continue to experience the simulation and act through a body?

The answer is quite simple. The appearance of experience and action is just part of the simulation and going on of its own accord. The infinite reality is not actually doing anything deliberately. The simulations simply appear in it by its very nature and keep going, irrespective of whether the understanding of being the one underlying reality has dawned upon a particular individual or not. The only difference it would make is that the actions of an individual after this understanding has dawned would appear to be in accordance with that understanding.

Note: You can replace all the occurrences of words “I” & “me” with “you” and “my” with “your” in the above article and it will still be true! I am just trying to take a step back from the apparent simulation and revel in the underlying reality which you, I and everyone actually is. I would highly encourage you to try it too. Its extremely liberating!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/190519907835/what-i-am-and-you-are-too)

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18 Jan

Defining Self Care

“Self-care” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. So many people are talking about it, especially online. In most of the discussions, self-care is used to describe taking a bath, getting a massage, having some aromatherapy, and the like. It kind of comes off as prioritizing yourself, maybe to the point of being selfish. But let’s really unpack this, and understand what self-care really means.

 

This is my definition of self-care: Being responsible for your own happiness and well-being. We can’t “get” happiness from any outside source. That means we can’t buy it, and we can’t rely on anyone else to provide it for us, or give it to us. So, if we’re not happy or well, we can’t blame anyone or anything – the buck, so to speak, stops with ourselves. When we can understand that, then we can make more informed choices about what we do, and how we do it.

 

For example, let’s look at the three pillars of health in Ayurveda, and how this relates to self-care.

 

1) Food: Food is anything we “eat” through any of the senses. What do you put in your mouth, what do you smell, what do you touch, what do you watch, what are you listening to? If you’re stressed out, yet continue to watch violent television shows, or listen to argumentative talk shows on the car radio, you need to make different choices. If your digestion is poor, and you’re eating junk food late at night, you need to be doing something different. This is self-care – knowing how to take care of yourself body, mind, and spirit… and actually doing it. No one else can do it for you. You absolutely have control here – so we have to look at our habits, and stop being on auto-pilot.

 

2) Sleep: You’ve heard me talk about sleep for years as the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. What could be easier than going to bed at a reasonable time? And yet, we don’t do it! We have every excuse to stay up later than we should. We’re on our screens way too late, we don’t invest in our sleep by making sure we have a new mattress and pillow. It’s like we see sleep as a chore, something more to fit into our busy day. Like a little kid, we don’t want to go to bed because we’re afraid we’ll be missing something! It’s time to change that mind-set and understand how important sleep is in every area of our lives. Self-care means being disciplined about your sleep schedule, and sleep hygiene so that sleep can actually work for you!

 

3) Activity: Activity is everything we do in our lives – work, exercise, relationships, our daily routine and habits. It’s not just what you’re doing, but also what you’re thinking about. Where is your attention focused? Self-care is also knowing our limits. Are you taking on too much? Are you being too active, is life too hectic? Or are you not active enough, is life too slow? There’s a beautiful “Goldilocks” amount of activity that’s unique to each of us, and “just right” for each one of us. Find yours and take care of yourself in this way. You might have to say no when you feel obligated or pressed to say yes, or say yes when you’re a bit uncomfortable jumping into something new. Tune into your intuition and do what is best for you.

 

Take good care!

Lots of love,

Lissa

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14 Jan

The Days of Our Lives

The great playwright William Shakespeare is often quoted as having said: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”  Do you ever feel like life is just one big drama?  We all have our parts to play, and our lines to say, and our days continue like a series of scripted scenes.  Yet who is writing this script?  Are we automatically reacting to the cues we are given, or are we indeed creating our lives, and our relationships, as we go along?

 

Ayurveda is the Science of Life.  From this centuries old philosophy we can learn everything we need to know to help our relationships grow and flourish.  Life is all about relationships.  Because we are in this world, we have a relationship with everyone and everything else in this world.  Our most important relationship is with ourselves.  When we know who we are, when we understand our place in the world, then we see how we fit in, and how everyone else fits in as well.  This wisdom shows us our interconnectedness, and how we really are here to help each other in so many ways.

 

The ayurvedic concept of doshas, or mind/body types, gives us insight into our inherent nature.  Our dosha is like a fingerprint, individual to each one of us.  And yet, one of the doshas is typically dominant in our personality and physiology.  When we know our dosha, we are given some direction as to how to bring out our strengths and overcome our challenges.

 

Vata dosha is made up of air and space.  People who are dominant in Vata generally appear to be long and lean.  The skin in thin and dry, and you can often see the veins through the skin.  The Vata person tends to have cold hands and feet.  Vatas are quick thinkers; they are creative, flexible and spontaneous.  They have sparkling personalities and enjoy trying new things.  However, when they are out of balance, when too much Vata is present, then they become anxious.  People might see them as “flaky” or “air headed” because they have a hard time remembering things.  Vatas can be disorganized and easily distracted.  In nature, you can see Vata in a hummingbird, flitting quickly from one thing to the next.  The hummingbird exerts a lot of energy and gets worn out quickly.

 

Vata types often have a difficult time traveling.  Because there is so much movement, there becomes an excess of air and space, so Vata gets out of balance easily.  This shows up as anxiety, nervousness, and even nausea.  They might have a hard time getting to sleep, and become constipated.  The best thing that Vatas can do to stay in balance is Abhyanga, a warm oil self-massage.  Warm and oily is the opposite of cold and dry, so this is the perfect remedy.  Abhyanga can be done in the morning, before a shower, or at nighttime, before bed.  It’s also a good idea for Vatas to sip warm water with lemon throughout the day. Vatas need to eat warm, cooked foods, especially while traveling, because their digestion is sensitive.

 

Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water.  Pitta dominant people have an average build, and are more athletic.  Because fire is present, Pitta runs hot.  Pittas have warm hands, and often have some reddish qualities to their skin or hair.  They can have freckles, or can have grey hair or go bald at an early age.  Pittas are highly intelligent.  They make good business people because they are discerning and they have strong leadership skills.  However, when too much Pitta is present, they come off as critical and bossy, and an excess of fire brings out anger and impatience.  In nature, Pitta is represented in an eagle.  The eagle soars, thinks, and plans.  When it sees what it wants, it goes after it without hesitation, with determination and precision.

 

The hot months of summer are known as Pitta season.  Because of the heat, Pitta is more likely to get out of balance.  This can show up as anger, judgment, or irritability.  We want to cool down the fire without extinguishing it.  Cooling foods like cucumber and mint are very good during this time of year.  It is also important to protect the skin from the sun, and to shade the eyes, as Pitta eyes are very sensitive to light.

 

Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water.  Those with a dominance of kapha are bigger boned, and a bit heavier than average.  The skin is clear and moist, and the hair is thick and lustrous.  Kaphas also tend to have big eyes and full lips.  They are beautiful!  Kaphas are loving and loyal.  They make wonderful teachers, doctors, and parents.  Kaphas have an easy-going nature and are very patient.  When Kapha is out of balance they can lack motivation.  They can seem lazy, stubborn, and possessive.  In nature, we can see Kapha in a swan, gracefully taking its time gliding across the water.  The swan is relaxed and comfortable in its surroundings.

 

A Kapha imbalance can show up as weight gain, depression, or as allergies.  To keep Kapha in check, exercise is vital.  Kaphas need to exercise daily, to the point of sweating.  They also need to be around people – socialization helps them to be happy, they are energized and stimulated when surrounded by good friends and engaged in lively conversation.  When Kaphas feel the urge to sit on the couch and eat, they should really call up a friend and go for a walk.

 

We would never expect a hummingbird to behave like an eagle.  And yet, with our loved ones, we often find ourselves asking another person to change – to do something that is contrary to his or her nature.  Expecting a swan to suddenly get up and flit around the flowers is absurd – just as it is to want a Kapha person to get skinny and multi-task a dozen projects.

 

It takes all of the doshas to make the world function.  We each have qualities that enhance our life here on earth.  For example, in a business setting, it’s good to include each of the doshas on a team.  The Vatas will brainstorm and come up with the big ideas.  The Pittas will come up with a plan to manage the team so that the ideas can become a reality.  And the Kaphas will shore up morale, and make sure that the project is seen through to its fruition.  We can work with our strengths to create an environment that serves everyone and achieves the best possible outcomes for the company.

 

First, Ayurveda teaches us how to be the best that we can be by staying in balance.  When we are in balance we think clearly and make the best decisions for ourselves.  We are better in our relationships because we are confident in knowing who we are.  In our personal relationships, Ayurveda can teach us to love and accept people as they are.  We can strive to help them stay in balance, and to be their healthiest and happiest.

 

There is a natural order, and balance to the Universe.  That is often why we choose the partners we choose.  We help to balance each other out.  A Pitta person can help a Vata person to be organized.  A Vata person can help a Kapha person to lighten up and have more fun, just by being around.  A Kapha person can help a Pitta person to remember what is most important in life.  When we learn to love and accept our partners for who they are, to recognize their nature, then our relationships will thrive.  Ayurveda shows us the beauty and benefits that happen naturally when we release any unrealistic expectations and learn to love “as is” with an open heart.

 

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06 Jan

The Many Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is really the best thing we can do for our overall health – and all it takes is our commitment to actually do it. Seriously – you don’t need any special gear, or any special place, or any special time to do it. We just have to make the slightest bit of effort to sit still and be quiet. But yet – even though we know how great it is for us, somehow we find every excuse not to do it. What’s that about? Here’s hoping this list of just some of the amazing benefits will motivate us to carve out just a few minutes of time in our otherwise busy day to embrace the bliss of this beautiful practice. This is the best habit you could ever adopt!

 

– Meditation is a great antidote for stress. With our hectic schedules our nervous system runs high on adrenaline. Meditation gives us a time to pause and just chill. Meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone that makes us feel stressed. With reduced cortisol we feel less anxious, less depressed and generally more calm.

 

– Meditation puts a smile on your face. When you meditate, serotonin is produced in your nerve cells. You feel a little more content, a little more centered, a little more comfortable in your own skin. And this good mood shows – you look better, too!

 

– Meditation helps with focus and concentration. With a calm mind you can handle tasks with aplomb. You can pay attention, and be more aware of what you are doing so you can do it well. This also helps to improve your memory, you remember what you did!

 

– Meditation is good for the body. Studies show that it lowers blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can even boost your immunity, so you can stave off illnesses more easily.

 

– Meditation helps you to be more patient, and more present. When in a long line at the store, or stuck in traffic, you can approach the situation with a sense of “this too shall pass.”

 

– Meditation helps you to release negative emotions more quickly. Instead of hanging on to anger or upset, you can process the feelings and let them go more easily.

 

– Meditation helps you to manage pain. With less anxiety, you can tolerate pain better. You learn how to breathe through the pain with meditation so you feel it less acutely. Meditation teaches us to self-sooth.

 

– Meditators have an easier time falling asleep, and often sleep more soundly than most.

 

– Meditation can improve relationships. It’s easier to communicate when you are calm and can think clearly. It also teaches us to look at our thought patterns so when emotions arise we can identify and deal with them.

 

– Meditation helps us to connect with who we really are. That space of silence is where all the wisdom is, and we can download it where we give ourselves the opportunities to do so.

 

– Meditation is good for the brain. Research shows it can slow the aging process and even reverse brain aging.

 

– Meditation can rev up your metabolism. We feel better so we have more energy and move more. All this helps with weight loss, too.

 

– Meditation helps you to forgive and let go of past issues with people. You feel more peaceful and can see the bigger picture. It allows you to feel more empathy. It allows you to let in gratitude.

 

 

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15 Oct

Are You at Risk for Depression?

An excerpt from Beneath the Surface by Kristi Hugstad

Ever since author Kristi Hugstad’s husband, after years of struggling with clinical depression, completed suicide in 2012 by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide.

 

That mission is what inspired her to write Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out When You or Your Friend Is in Crisis, which speaks candidly to today’s youth — and the parents, teachers, and coaches who love them — about the anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts that far too often accompany the unique challenges that face their generation. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

Most children grow up thinking their home, family, and upbringing are “normal,” even when they’re not. Children and teens living in a home where one or both parents are depressed often don’t realize this isn’t the norm — though this situation is more common than you may think.

 

In fact, fifteen million kids in the United States have parents with depression.

 

As a result, these fifteen million kids are at greater risk of developing depression themselves. But depression can happen to anyone. It can occur after a trauma or during a stressful situation, or it can develop due to someone’s particular brain chemistry. Why someone develops depression is important, particularly if it’s due to situational or lifestyle factors, which can be changed. But more important than the why is the how. As in, how do you deal with depression? That is the real focus of this book because depression can put someone at risk for any number of issues, including suicide. The faster you recognize the symptoms of depression, the faster you can get treatment and reduce the risk of other, even more serious issues. Additionally, the more you know, the better you can help others.

 

Are you at risk for depression? Consider the following questions, all of which may indicate that someone is already depressed or at risk for developing depression. If you find yourself answering affirmatively even to several questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed, but you may have an increased risk of becoming so. Later we’ll talk about what you can do if you or someone you love is suffering from depression.

 

Depression Self-Assessment

 

Do you currently live with a family member who suffers from depression?

Studies have shown that living with a mother or father who has depression, whether the cause is environmental or genetic, increases your own risk of developing the condition. You may not know if a parent suffers from depression; if you feel safe asking, do so. If not, consider whether they exhibit the signs described in this book. Further, you don’t have to live with a depressed family member to be at risk.

Does life feel pointless?

Everyone may occasionally feel hopeless as they navigate through school, work, and life. But if a hopeless feeling persists day after day and affects your daily behavior, it could be a sign of depression.

Do you find it impossible to concentrate?

Depression can make it hard to concentrate even when you’re reading or watching something you love.

Have you withdrawn from your friends and family?

It’s important to do your own thing and be independent, but this should be balanced with a healthy amount of socializing and bonding with friends and family. Depression sufferers often turn down opportunities to be with others simply to be alone.

Have you noticed a sudden change in your weight?

Extreme weight loss or gain can be a symptom of depression. If you’ve lost your appetite or find yourself seeking comfort in food, this may be because your brain chemistry is being affected by depression.

Do you have insomnia, or do you sleep too much?

Look, teenagers need their sleep and often don’t get enough. But if you go through long periods of sleeplessness or of sleeping too much, depression may be the reason.

Do you have physical pain that won’t go away?

Depression doesn’t just cause emotional pain. Depression can cause chemical imbalances in your brain that make you perceive pain differently, and it could be the reason for a persistent physical pain that doctors can’t find a reason for.

Have your grades dropped? Have you stopped participating in extracurriculars?

Depression has two best friends: apathy and lack of energy. These can combine to affect your performance in school and your extracurricular activities, and they can sap your passion for activities you once loved.

Have you ever thought of suicide?

If you answer yes, you’re not alone, and suicidal thoughts can be caused by depression. However, if you’re currently thinking about suicide, seek help and treatment. Tell someone. With counseling and, if necessary, proper medication, you will begin to feel better. When you’re suffering from depression, the idea of feeling better might be difficult to imagine. This is the time to practice trust and courage.

 

# # #

 

Kristi HugstadKristi Hugstad is the author of Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out when You or Your Friend Is in Crisis. Ever since her husband completed suicide in 2012, after years of struggling with clinical depression, by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide. A certified grief recovery specialist, Kristi frequently speaks at high schools. Visit her online at https://www.thegriefgirl.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Beneath the Surface. Copyright ©2019 by Kristi Hugstad. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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03 Oct

Practice Self-Compassion

**Excerpted from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, Oct. 22, 2019)

Self-compassion means directing loving-kindness inwardly. Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself a break and acknowledge that you did your best in any circumstance. When you become your own champion, you will feel more protected in the world.

Research shows that people who are compassionate toward their own shortcomings experience greater well-being than those who harshly judge themselves. We all make mistakes, but the larger lesson of love is how we treat ourselves at those times.

Still, it’s often easier to have compassion for others than oneself. Over the years, many psychotherapist friends have lamented to me about this issue. Don’t worry. This is an area of growth that loving people must address so they can be more compassionate with their own struggles.

Compassion can be learned. Start by planning at least one act of kindness toward yourself daily. For example, turn off your computer and enjoy a walk or tell yourself, “Good job,” or “I’m happy that I didn’t react nastily to a controlling friend.” My Taoist teacher says, “Beating yourself up a little bit less each day is spiritual progress.”

SET YOUR INTENTION

I will be my own best friend. I am not perfect, nor are any of us. I will not beat myself up. I will treat myself with kindness.

 

*    *    *

Judith Orloff, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author, a member of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, and has a Facebook Empath Support Community with more than 6,000 members. She has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and more. Her new book, Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People  (Sounds True, Oct. 22, 2019), draws from her own experiences as an empath to share the secret to well-being. Learn more at drjudithorloff.com.

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15 Sep

Seasonal Spice Blends

According to Ayurveda, a balanced diet contains all six tastes at every meal. This can be challenging given our western influences. There’s a simple solution! Herb and spice blends called “Churna” that are specially formulated for the seasons. Fall/Winter when it is cold and dry is Vata season. Summer is Pitta season, and Spring is Kapha season. You can use these blends while cooking, or take the shaker with you to sprinkle on your food when you eat out. You can add the churnas to sauces, soups, vegetable or rice dishes, even just sprinkle it on salads, popcorn or snacks. Very convenient, and really delicious. You can make your own at home in the kitchen.
The Vata blend is calming, and includes cardamom, ginger, and other spices. The Pitta blend is cooling, and includes cumin, coriander and fennel along with other spices. The Kapha blend is invigorating, with turmeric, mustard, black pepper and more.
Vata Churna:
Ingredients
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing powder)
¼ teaspoon salt (I prefer Himalayan salt, it is unprocessed)
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Directions
  1. In a dry skillet, roast the cumin and coriander seeds until nutty.
  2. Transfer to a spice grinder and add cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
  3. Put the ground spices in a bowl with the ground ginger, asafetida, and salt and mix all together.
  4. Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
Pitta Churna:
Ingredients
        2 tablespoons fennel seeds
        2 tablespoons coriander seeds
        2 tablespoons cumin seeds
        1 tablespoon turmeric
        2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves (chopped), or dried mint leaves
        ½ teaspoon ground ginger
        1 tablespoon raw sugar
Directions
1.  In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2.  Transfer to a spice grinder and add the cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
3.  Put the spices in a bowl with the turmeric, mint, ground ginger and sugar and mix all together.
4.  Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
Kapha Churna:
Ingredients
        2 tablespoons coriander seeds
        1 tablespoon cumin seeds
        1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
        1 tablespoon ground ginger
        1 tablespoon turmeric
        1 tablespoon cinnamon
        1 teaspoon ground clove
        ½ teaspoon black pepper
Directions
1.  In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2.  Transfer to a spice grinder and add the genugreek seeds; process to a fine powder.
3.  Put the spices in a bowl with the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove and black pepper and mix all together.
4.  Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
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14 Sep

Ayurvedic Solutions for Embarrassing Problems

Embarrassing Problem: Bad Breath

Ayurvedic Solution:

Cardamom seeds –  Tasty, just chew up a couple.

Also good for a sore throat, speakers who talk a lot.

A tongue scraper can also help to prevent bad breath. This is in common use in Ayurveda, usually in stainless steel, but also available in sterling silver or copper.

Eat the parsley garnish after a meal to get rid of bad breath, too.

 

 

Embarrassing Problem: Gas

Ayurvedic Solution:

Fennel seeds –

You often see a bowl of these in Indian restaurants and wondered what they were for.  Just chew up about a teaspoon full after a big meal.  Easy to carry in your purse.

 

 

Embarrassing Problem: Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are inflamed veins around the rectum, often caused by the weight of pregnancy, or from constipation, or from heavy lifting.

Ayurvedic Solution:

Mix 1 Tablespoon dry cumin with a bit of water to make a paste.  Apply to the affected area, and leave on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse off.  Twice a day.  This works because cumin is high in potassium, which helps bring down blood pressure, so it helps relieve the inflammation.

 

 

Embarrassing Problem: Overactive Bladder

Ayurvedic solution:

Ayurveda says that an overactive bladder is caused by too much Vata dosha in the pelvic region.  A bladder infection and constipation can aggravate the vata dosha and cause an overactive bladder.  Obesity can also cause an overactive bladder.  Follow lifestyle changes for constipation.  Also, add some dates into your diet, and drink tender coconut water.

 

 

Embarrassing Problem: Constipation

Ayurvedic solution:

There are three parts to digestion, each equally important: digestion, assimilation, and elimination.  When we are not eliminating the waste products of our food effectively, we are constipated.  Those toxins need to be eliminated from the body for us to feel our best.  Constipation can lead to many other issues, including skin breakouts, menstrual cramps, fatigue, depression and more.

Triphala is an ayurvedic remedy for constipation.  It is made of three fruits, and is considered a valuable herbal preparation.   It helps the body to gently release toxins.

Lifestyle changes for constipation:

-Largest meal at lunchtime, when digestion is strongest.

-Sip warm water with lemon throughout the day.  Vata tea is also very healing.

-Avoid eating leftovers and foods that contain preservatives.  Your body has to work harder to eliminate these impurities from the liver and cells.

-Avoid cold drinks, as these reduce digestive power.

-Get to bed by 10 pm, s your body can rest during its natural purification cycle, from 10 pm to 2 am.

-Pay attention to the food you are eating – don’t watch TV, read or work while eating.

-Eat lots of leafy greens, stick to a high-fiber diet of fresh fruits, veggies and grains.

 

 

Embarrassing Problem: Foot Odor

Ayurvedic Solution:

Smelly feet can result from perspiration, dead skin cells, and bacteria.  Synthetic shoes and socka increase the problem by not letting your feet breathe.  What to do?

-FOOT BATH: In 1 quart of hot water (about 100-110 degrees F), add 1 teaspoon Epsom salt or sea salt. Make a small pouch of herbs, include the ones you like from lavender, sage, rosemary and add this pouch to the water.  Soak your feet for approximately 20 minutes.  Gently rub the herbs on your feet.

-Dry feet thoroughly.

-Mix 1 part cornstarch with 3 parts Herbalized Clay and 3-4 drops of peppermint essential oil.  Add cool water to make a paste and apply the paste to the feet for 20-30 minutes.  Wash off with warm water and dry thoroughly.

Follow this procedure daily until the problem disappears, then continue once or twice a week preventively.

 

Embarrassing Problem: Hair Loss

Ayurvedic Solution:

Hair loss is seen as an excess of Pitta dosha, too much fire.  Do Pitta balancing things like:

-Drink 1/3 cup of aloe vera juice with pinch of cumin 3 x/day for 3 months to cool the system.

-Drink fresh juices like carrot and spinach to stimulate hair growth.

-Eat a spoonful of white sesame seeds every morning.  This is a good source of both magnesium and calcium.

-Avoid coffee (any caffeine), alcohol, smoking, and red meat – all of which aggravate Pitta dosha.

-Scalp massage with coconut oil is great to help stimulate hair growth.

 

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