meditation

ashtanga workshop w/ Elliot cover

Yin Yoga Meditation

A Unique Approach to Meditation

Meditation is one of my favorite things. Yoga, sitting cross-legged while doing various mental exercises, running, teaching yoga, and performing other focused exercises are examples of what I define as meditation. Anything where there is focus and concentration.

Yin yoga has become more and more prevalent in my own practice, as I have seen it grow in popularity in general over the past few years. I prefer ashtanga for a more regular practice, but Yin offers an excellent counterbalance to the strenuous application of the four ashtanga series. And best of all its all online for free at Yinyoga.com from a guy named Bernie Clark. It’s a really cool website and you should explore it if you want slow deep ligament and tendon focused stretching.

The Balancing of Yin and Yang

Yin yoga is not a complete package, however, as no system of yoga or even physical condition can really provide this. If too much time is spent lengthening, softening, and stretching the muscles then they will be easily strained when performing physically demanding tasks. There needs to be a balance between the soft stretching of yin and the more active stretching of yang yoga like Iyengar, Hatha yoga, or Ashtanga and other more active physical activities. Even more engaged, active physical activities like running, circuit training, even weightlifting can be combined with a yoga practice to extraordinary gain.

The Benefits of Yin Yoga

Because the benefits of yoga are extraordinary. Yin yoga, in particular, has a myriad of physical benefits for the body, not to mention the mental and psychological benefits for the mind. The benefits of yin yoga are a bit different from those of the yang styles, but in a way that is completely complimentary.

Science has shown that Yin yoga has the following benefits:

  • Myofascial releases of tension resulted in increased healing processes
  • Improved immune response
  • Increased metabolism and serotonin levels (happiness neurotransmitter)
  • Improves sleep performance
  • Improves circulation around joints which can alleviate arthritis, osteoporosis and chronic pain
  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Depression reduction

As you can see, Yin yoga boasts quite a few benefits, though some people have a hard time starting the practice. It can be difficult at first to breath properly for the duration of a long-held stretch and it is easy to get agitated or just lose focus. Yin yoga is something that you practice over time and its pretty normal to have a slow start and to take some time to develop a consistent practice; but when you do you will be very happy with the ever-increasing depth of a yin practice.

As you become more advanced in one style of yoga, particularly Yin yoga, you start to find yourself becoming almost too good at poses; sometimes muscles can be too flexible and not strong enough, but this is fixed with a changing yang practice. This is also one of the reasons Ashtanga is easier when you practice it every day; the muscles get used to the same stretches. This is also why you perform poses twice in Bikram classes.

Yin Yoga is a long road that I know I will continue to talk about and expand upon. I might even have a bigger section of my blog eventually devoted to the practice, so please let me know what you are interested in learning/reading about!

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The Wanderer, Part 21

This story is part of a series, this is the twenty-first part.

You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 20

Tas woke with a shake, not sure where he was. He panicked immediately, remember the night before. He twisted to his left and hit his head on something hard. ugh, what was that? Clutching his forehead, he slowly opened his eyes, trying hard not to think about much his head hurt. He could see a dark, starry sky on the ceiling slowly come into focus. He sighed with relief. The stars were meticulously placed and he had often sat beneath them late at night, learning their patterns and locations ceaselessly. He was in Paj’s study.

It was a second before he remembered everything. The monks panicking under the shadowy sky, Melkar and Grethatch’s attack on the monastery and then his dark dreams. Where had he gone the night before? How had Grethatch found him? He was so confused. The memories came rushing back to him as he rustled his body awake; it was still sleeping.

Paj awoke as Tas stood, though the old man tried to return to sleep. Tas grabbed his arm to wake him again and the old man’s eyes flickered open, panicking in the same way as Tas had; but one glance at Tas and the old man was awake.

“Tas! You’re alive. Thank heavens.” Paj rustled himself awake, taking a few moment to stretch. “Let’s wake the old man, shall we,” Paj said sarcastically and in a slightly disgruntled tone. Tas could hear Paj’s bones crackling as the old man got up to his feet. Yao was on the couch to their left; still asleep. There was a small, charred scar on his forehead, though it was barely noticeable. Paj moved towards Yao to wake him, moving with the slow grace that was always with the old man.

Instead of grabbing Yao’s arm like Tas had for Paj, Paj threw a cup of water on Yao’s face. Yao sputtered to life, his guard came up immediately as he jumped to his feet. Paj watched the Yao as he swung at the air, and laughing heartily at Yao’s reflexes. Yao cursed strongly, but his anger faded immediately. Tas took note never to wake Yao up forcefully.

Once Yao’s eyes fell on Tas, his jaw hardened. “Time to leave.”

Tas sighed in exasperation; he need answers. “Can’t we talk about what is happening? I want to know what in the hell is going on, I’m terrified to fall asleep again!”

“You should be.” Yao said heatedly, checking his pockets and obviously getting ready to depart. Paj shrugged as Tas looked to him for help. “GO GET YOUR THINGS BOY! MOVE! NOW!” Tas didn’t even have time to think to respond; he hurried down the stairs to get his things from his room. He couldn’t believe he fell asleep the night before; this whole ordeal was his fault.

He rushed down the stairs, noting the emptiness of the monastery. Where had all the monks gone? Tas hurried to grab his pack; thanking himself for having already gathered food. He knew Yao would be ready to leave the second he walked upstairs to the main entrance.

He hurried back up the stairs; there was no time for farewells or goodbyes, even though one of the cooks he often talked to tried to talk to him. He was the only person in sight, but Tas knew he had to leave. He didn’t know if Grethatch might appear from the shadows, or if Melkar was coming after them as he rushed up the stairs. His mind was racing. He found Yao in the entrance and together they left the monastery, moving at double pace; he hadn’t even said goodbye to Paj. Tas looked back with apprehension; he would miss his time in the solitude of the monks.

Yao noticed and for the first time; comforted Tas. “We will see them again, boy.”Don’t you worry. With us gone, those monks will be safe. Paj is stronger than you think. The old man has survived worse. But he is powerful in ways that I am not.” Yao sighed. “I will miss him” Even as he glanced back for a moment, Yao kept up his blistering pace, heading for the forests to the south. Tas had no idea where they were heading so he asked quickly, saving his breath for his legs.

“Its better that you don’t know right now. We will be safe tonight though,” Yao said with certainty. Tas didn’t know how the old man could know such a thing, but at this point he trusted Yao with his life. He had saved it enough to earn that trust.

“I just want to know what’s happening to us, Yao. I don’t think I will be able to sleep tonight.”

Yao raised his eyebrows without stopping. He gave a soft chuckle. “Have you forgotten what its like to travel with me boy?” Yao was right, but Tas’ body felt oddly strong, was Yao slowing down? Or was Tas becoming stronger? “You will sleep well tonight, my boy. I will make sure of that.” Sure enough, Yao picked up the pace. He must have noticed Tas’ lack of fatigue.

They walked through the forest for the rest of the day, steadily climbing up-hill. The trees grew sparser and larger as they ascended and Tas could tell that they were heading north-east now; towards the mountains if he had to guess, but he had never been. Paj’s maps were his only source of guessing as they continued a rigorous climb and Tas was steadily growing exhausted. Yao was right; he wouldn’t have trouble sleeping tonight.

The air was crisp and chilly by the time they stopped for the night. Yao began to build a fire; Tas had never seen the old man so happy, but Tas was cold and the sweat on his clothes was a source of complete discomfort as he tried to warm himself by the fire.

“Tas, tonight, I want you to clear your mind completely before you sleep. Meditate yourself into nothing before you rest; it will keep you safe as you dream.” Yao pulled out a long pipe from his jacket pocket and began filling it with a green plant, something that Tas had never seen before. As he lit the pipe, Tas could smell a sweat, but strange smell emanating from it, unlike anything he had ever seen. “This will help you to have dreamless sleeps as we travel. In three days, we will reach our destination and there you will learn what is happening. But until we arrive, we are not safe from the demons that pursue us. Here smoke this, then you can meditate yourself to sleep.”

Tas didn’t even want to think about arguing; he was exhausted and knew that tomorrow would probably be even more arduous. The mountains were still countless miles away and Tas guessed that they were headed somewhere in the high ranges of snow caps you could see from afar.

As he inhaled the pipe, he found his mind growing blank, entering instantly into his meditation. His mind buzzed for a few moments, then cleared itself completely. He felt his muscles and stomach relax, easing him into the darkness once again. He leaned against the old man next to the fire and Yao covered him with their only blanket as Tas fell back into the darkness of his mind.

The Wanderer, Part 21 Read More »

jesus&buddha

Idealization in the Psyche

A core function of the human mind is dreaming, or imagining events that haven’t actually taken place. This can occur while sleeping, while bored during the day, while exercising, pretty much any time when your attention is free, this is possible for the mind. If you are intensely focused on something, for instance your breath, then the mind cannot create these abstractions or false realities. This is part of the Maya that Buddhists and Hindus believe is the illusion of this world.

I’ve heard a lot about spirituality in the last 3 months; I’ve heard that the Buddhas enlightenment meditation was about 4 hours long, I’ve learned that the mind will ceaselessly process events for seemingly no reason, I’ve learned that Buddhism is absolutely a religion, and I have come to the conclusion that the Western and Eastern spiritual religions are two sides of the same coin; the quest for power.

The Buddha and Jesus Christ are treated very similarly in their respective religions of Buddhism and Christianity. Each is somewhat of a key holder to salvation from the world; the Buddha through enlightenment, and Jesus through heaven. Being educated by Jesuit priests has its advantages; I believe it is a requirement to have a PHD in both Theology and Philosophy. Eight years at Jesuit schools has taught me a lot about how to understand and interpret mythology, which religion can effectively be compartmentalized under.

Proper understanding of any literature requires analysis of three major factors : historical events, cultural rituals, and most importantly language. It is impossible to understand what writers were attempting to say in ancient times without understanding their lifestyle, educational background, and historical circumstances. These three things cross over into each other (ie language is a cultural phenomenon and history consists of many important rituals and customs), so having a decent understanding of all three circumstances is important to understand the meaning of what is being said.

If we look at most modern-day christianity, a lot of this contextual information is forgotten, therefore disregarded which causes us to completely lose the meaning of the original text. You need this contextual information to understand what the author is trying to express.

A lot of people don’t understand the bible but quote it regularly; I hesitate to say most, but I don’t think I would be wrong. It is an ancient book written for ancient times and most of it was passed orally before it was ever written, including all four books about Jesus’ life. Even with all of the available knowledge regarding historical, cultural, and linguistic circumstances, we still have a very small picture into the life of someone like Jesus. So we idealize about the individual person in nearly every way, because we allow our brains to construct “the perfect” human. This is essentially what the ideal of Jesus epitomizes in Christianity, an individual that sacrifices everything for his community, even though he receives no recognition for it.

The buddha is very similar to eastern traditions. A lot of the knowledge passed from the Buddha was also passed down orally; but instead of the 70-100 years gap before Jesus’ teachings were written, the Buddha’s teaching were first written about 400 years after he died. This leaves a rather large margin for misinterpretation in the writings of both holy books. He was also a “perfected” human, though his path was different he achieved enlightenment and unison with the divine.

Most scholars accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order and that he was a younger contemporary of Mahavira (the Jain teacher). But very few are hesitant to say much more than this, because of the convoluted theologically influences historical events. The same is true with Jesus, most scholars accept that he lived, died, and founded an order in the process. But scholars of both traditions believe that the traditional texts are not at all historically reliable.

Both the Buddha and Jesus led tremendous cultural revolutions that were anti-establishment; Jesus against rabbis and Jewish pharisees, and the Buddha against Hindu ascetics and Brahmins that constructed the caste system. Both taught about freedom that can’t be obtained externally and both were very misunderstood then, and now. And both were lost to time, never to be truly understood because of lack of reliable information. This has created a complete idealization of both figures, so much so that individuals consider them to be the gateways to the divine.

Why am I writing about this? To exemplify a constructive process of the mind, called idealization. We do this with people we look up to, idolizing and making up idealistic personalities for them. Modern music, movies, acting, etc creates plenty of this. It is part of how we dream, we look up to the individuals we think of as the most successful, or the highest quality. Then we try to be more like them to improve our functioning within society.

We need to step away from these ideals and understood the people around us as humans, rather than idealizing about your favorite artist, a model whose body is unforgettable when photo shopped. Jesus and the Buddha were both humans. There really isn’t any evidence to show otherwise, so that is my position that I am sticking to, because instead of creating an impossible ideal to strive towards, now you have a concrete human that you can measure your own progress against.

Being anti-establishment is important; it’s what allows the establishment to grow and evolve to better fit the needs of the unfortunate underprivileged. Both leaders were completely anti-establishment, in my opinion. They were leading revolutions. Remember that the next time you go to church, or a temple. Jesus literally taught against established religion. I don’t remember Jesus ever going to church, nor the buddha building a temple where he wanted to meditate. The Buddha was enlightened under a tree! And both were focused on being and existence and you can tell because they didn’t write anything about themselves! They were busy teaching people how to stop thinking about how virtue can make you happy. So focus on being happy now, like these awesome dudes!

 

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Letting Ego Go

The ego is a concept used to describe consciousness, made famous by Sigmund Freud and used consistently in religion to talk about the principles of “reality” and the functioning of the mind. The ego is an illusion, ultimately it does not exist outside of your own head.

There are three primary reasons for the existence of an ego, the first and most important is survival. This includes sex, feeding, and unavoidable needs (excretion, water consumption, regular movement). The secondary purpose of the ego is regulation of social hierarchy, which is more important and prominent in pack mammals such as monkeys or dogs.

The ego can also be examined as the internal dialogue, though aspects of the internal dialogue can certainly transcend the ego. The real key to understanding the ego is considering that the ego cannot exist outside of a subjective mind. This is what makes an ego so necessary for survival, it allows the do-er to differentiate itself from its environment to act upon it. So in many ways, birds must have at least a small ego because an ego provides a sense of worth to a being. A sense of purpose in survival.

Do-ers can also transcend their ego, acting as a part of the whole of their surroundings and not considering their own survival as more necessary than that of others. It is possible to unify with the self, therefore transcending ego and simply being, rather than doing. The difference between being and doing is pacificity, surrender, letting go of the ego’s need to feel gratified by actions or thoughts.

The unification with the environment allows for the do-er to become the receiver, outlet, and observer, rather than the one who is acting. With this realization comes a tremendous amount of freedom in existence, the do-er becomes an illusion, part of Maya, of Samsara. Oneness is understood.

However, ego is still necessary in many situations, it must be renounced as false and an entity that does not truly exist except in the mind. At a certain point, your ego will stop serving your self and this is the situation you should be looking for in renouncing the ego, that you simply do not need it as much any more. This is why transcending the ego takes a serious amount of time in stillness, meditation, and peace. The only way to renounce the ego is through both thought and action and there are many spiritual traditions that teach about various aspects of the paths to the renounced state, where the individual is able to see past the illusion into the oneness of the Brahman and live in a state of togetherness with nature.

Freud liked to talk about the ego and Id together, but I think that we should give ourselves a better identification; ego can be looked at as the internal dialogue or at least a piece of this. In Freud’s terms, some of this is powered by the ID (the instinct drive), but we can do away with this idea for modern neuroscience and talk about the lower level functions of cognition. We humans have very basic cognition that fuels us in social situations and teaches us how to react when in groups, on teams, in the classroom, etc that can be considered Freud’s ID. This is what we are looking to renounce, the part of the mind that “overthinks” social situations in whatever way this manifests itself. Most of the time, it occurs in hubris, or excess pride.

The Ego is something that was once completely necessary for survival, but with the technological and societal advancements in the 21st century, many people are finding that their egos hamper their work. Art is one of these professions that is a constant battle against ego, trying to express self and the soul rather than the be side-tracked by the ego. But with the proper mindfulness, you can let go of that voice inside your head that is always talking shit in your head. (or maybe it is just talking)

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wanderer_first-dream

The Wanderer, Part 13

This story can be read alone, or as the 13th story of the wanderer series.

Please see the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 12

The sky was very dark and hazy, at first Tas was just walking along a lonely road, but he could recognize it. He continued to stare at the ground, mesmerized, he felt like he had been here a thousand times. He could see the tracks and the signs along the way and he knew them all, but he couldn’t remember where. The journey seemed to last forever, but he finally arrived at the entrance gate to his parents village.

Tas was so excited, but was careful to keep his breathing steady and pushed his thoughts back and exhaled, dropping back in.

Now he was with his mother in the kitchen, waiting for his father to finish cooking a fresh chicken. Come to think of it, he was famished, so he was happy to eat a bit of chicken with his parents in their small house. An eternity felt like a breath and Tas soon found himself at the hearth, sitting against his father’s chair, alone again in the dark night, the only light was flickering from the dying fire. He looked up at the stars as the ceiling dissolved; he felt himself falling and startled awake.

Tas woke up with a grin, his dream was a clear vision of his family and he could see all that they had been doing for the day. He sat for a moment, enjoying his own success. The night before, he had aligned himself with Jupiter, and because of the full moon, he was able to use the full extent of Jupiter’s power to see his family. Paj taught him this trick, though it could only be done on the full moon and only when Jupiter was high in the sky. Tas felt very satisfied as he woke to dress for the day, not to mention his peace of mind at being able to see his mother and father happily moving homes because of the success of the harvest in the past few months.

Paj and Tas made incredible progress in their nightly sessions, sometimes talking and reading and practicing certain meditations far into the morning. Tas had completely memorized the movement of the planets and their visible satellites in the sky with the telescope. They had bowls and cups of metal to make sounds to induce meditation and Tas had deepened his ability to perceive the his world. The moon’s cycles were becoming more and more familiar to Tas, but the moon’s powers were ever elusive and Paj was slow to teach him anything truly significant. Last week was the first exception, Paj told Tas that the full moon granted a sight while sleeping. Combined with Jupiter’s ability to travel outside of the body, it made for a powerful combination for dreamwalking, as he called it. Tas spent the night facing the direction of Jupiter in the Northwest and Paj hesitantly used the alloy synced with Jupiter’s frequencies. And he had succeeded.

Tas tested it by passively meditating into sleep, as Paj had instructed, then found himself awake in the dream. He continued to smile as he washed, groomed, and dressed himself, preparing for his morning meditations. He joined the sea of monks again, as he did every morning and after the morning’s invocation, went down to the forest to meet Shu and continue. Each day was a little different, the powerful meditations seemed to come in waves. Some days were torturous, but made him feel so great afterwards, some where easy, but made the rest of the day difficult. He had grown frustrated in the first weeks, but now he had stopped caring. Tas just tried not to think about it and it seemed to be working out so far.

He was keen to continue exploring his mind in the energy of the circle of monks. He had come to realize that there was something special about the trees, or perhaps the ground that allowed them to meditate for so long. He asked Shu a few days ago and he only responded that there was indeed something special about it, but he didn’t know what.

Shu had begun to meditate with Tas, teaching him techniques to still his breathing and slow his heart. Tas could feel so much, Shu said constantly, “you must become more sensitive. Only when you become more sensitive, more detached and able to feel your senses will you be free of their grasp. Then you will be free to feel as the true you wishes.”

Tas knew there was more than this from Yao, but he was sure that Shu was also correct in his teaching. Tas was starting to feel a nothingness, a sensation of pure bliss in his meditation, but he could only caught small glimpses of it. It was similar to how he felt with Yao, but less potent. He often remembered the night where he was starving and forced to wait and felt a sea of immeasurable pleasure and himself floating inside of its immensely overwhelming nothingness.

He spent a couple of hours in pure silence, scanning his thoughts and letting go of the night before; after he went to lunch and enjoyed his time alone. He asked for two extra servings, much to the dismay of the cook, but he needed the food. His stomach was rumbling for the past few days and he had already ignored it for too long. The meditations and lessons were exhausting.

After he finished his third bowl of rice soup, he took a few breaths and began to walk upstairs to the tower.

As he walked through the heavy, wooden door, Tas could tell that things were arranged differently than usual. Immediately he asked himself what the old man could be up to, until his shoulder was grabbed forcefully and he was turned to face Paj; the old man’s eyes were lined with fatigue.

“Last night, you prepared to travel with Jupiter, didn’t you?” Paj asked impatiently, his eyes never leaving Tas’. He already knew.

“Yes, I went to see my family.” Tas turned his eyes down to the floor.

“it was…” he sighed, returning to his mother’s laugh and his father’s confident grin.

“powerful and..” he looked up again to see Paj’s eyes reflecting his own.

“reassuring.” he said the last work slowly, letting it sink in so he could hear it himself. His family was healthy and happy.

Paj smiled suddenly, Tas could tell that he was not happy when he walked into the room. “Good, I am glad that your family is safe. Have you experienced any side effects?”

“I don’t think so…” Tas said slowly, trying to think back.

“Good. You would know.” Paj changed his manner and his brow darkened, a contrast to his white beard. “But there is something of a larger scale that is happening. The stars reflect a chaos surfacing in the West. Something is returning that is very, very old, and more powerful than you want to know.” Paj’s eyes glared and he slowed as he said them, obviously thinking back to another time. Tas was patient, but he already had so many questions.

“What is it?” Tas asked, hesitant to ask a question at all.

“Well, straight to the point aren’t we? Let’s find out.” Paj said, his gaze icy and cold, resigned, hardened. Tas felt his body begin to tremble in anticipation, he learnt of great sages who shared dreams in the manuals, but hadn’t even seen mention of techniques. Was he about to do this with Paj? He was sure that the ancient techniques were far advanced to his own elementary knowledge; at least for now.

Paj began to scuffled around, grabbing particular bowls and preparing tea for Tas with ginger, hibiscus, eucalyptus, and rosemary. “We will align with the moon again tonight, there is still small remaining power for sight. The tea will augment that power and…” he paused for long enough to look at Tas very seriously, one eyebrow rose as he finished, “will greatly enhance our sensitivity.”

Tas knew what this meant. The dream would be powerful; more powerful than anything he had ever experienced. But he was ready, his mind was empty and he was not scared.

“We will align our minds with Saturn’s rings, using the silver and iron alloyed bowls. Jupiter will also be in the sky, so we can share with Saturn’s energies and travel with Jupiter’s. and…” now he paused for a moment.

“we will smoke this.” He held up a small paper full of tobacco, some greenweed, and some other black substance that Tas didn’t know. But Tas was ready; he knew that this would be another step towards his ultimate goal and he wasn’t worried; Paj wouldn’t lead him astray.

He drank the tea, slowly, meditating as he did, saying nothing and letting Paj use the signing bowls. They both began to smoke the small rolled joint. Paj instructed Tas to inhale, but after the first one, he couldn’t stop coughing. Each time afterwords, he still coughed, but a bit less. Paj continued to play the bowls and Tas could feel himself fading into sleep; he could do nothing to stop it. Paj continued to play the bowls and create the vibrations, but was now sitting in his chair and Tas could tell that he was dozing off as well. Tas could feel himself leaving his body in the depths of the vibrations, the huge sea of vast nothingness was returning. Tas sat back on his mat in the room, faced towards Saturn and fell deeply into a sleeping meditation, where he couldn’t tell if he was awake, or asleep, until he finally succumbed to the dark of his mind.

 

 

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The Wanderer, Part 12

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7
The Wanderer, Part 8
The Wanderer, Part 9
The Wanderer, Part 10
The Wanderer, Part 11

Tas woke up in confusion, his breathing was shallow and a cold sweat laced his forehead. The soft cushions and a mattress supported as he regained his breath, finally remembering where he was from the grey stone floor of the monastery. His training was getting more intense; Paj was relentless in his teaching, giving Tas task after task and leaving no extra energy in the wake of his teaching. It wasn’t even interesting, he just had Tas memorizing patterns and movements of the stars and especially the planets. He was getting good at plotting Mercury, but the other five or six were a complete mystery. Paj worked him tirelessly saying it was all useless until he could track the movement of the six prime planets and major constellations. Then, he would learn about the planets of the planets, which granted stronger sight, but were seemingly impossibly complex. Tas was exhausted, even Shu was pushing Tas’ limits now; Tas sighed with fatigue, but he was happy to be tired. The only times he had ever worked this hard before had been with his father in the final days of the harvest.

He couldn’t remember his dream, but he could feel the intensity from the ferocious beating of his heart and felt flustered. He took his time to catch his breath and hung his head to clear and calm his mind. He rubbed the back of his neck, straining to remember. He went to his washroom and prepared for the day, taking his time, then went out to meander through the hall for the morning’s ceremony, the dream forgotten.

After the ceremony, he met Fei at the balcony, which was customary. But instead of order Tas to go with Shu for the day, he motioned for Tas to follow him. Tas soon found himself entering the Acharya’s chambers. It was full of artwork, paintings on the walls and floors and all sorts of trinkets, more beautiful than Tas had ever seen. No doubt it was the work of the monks, but Tas wondered why Fei had so many.

Fei motioned for Tas to sit on a beautiful rug on his floor and began to pour him tea. He smiled, the same beaming smile that Tas had grown accustomed to. He wondered when the monk wasn’t smiling and couldn’t hide his grin. The old monk simply smiled.

“Tas, you look tired. How have you been feeling?”

Tas hadn’t seen himself lately, but he was sure that the monk must be right, “I have been working hard, master Fei. The training here is very difficult!”

Fei laughed. He didn’t respond, but sipped his tea instead, waiting a moment. “Is this the kind of challenge that you want?”

“Why, yes master Fei.” Tas lowered his eyes, “I felt never felt so purposeful before, I focus only on my studies and learning meditation. I felt one foot begin to float off the floor yesterday!”

“Good, boy,” Fei said happily. “You’ll be able to levitate within your first year, if you keep it up.”

Tas was confused by this. A year? He was only staying for a few weeks, until Yao returned. Did this mean he could stay if he wanted?

“Paj has noticed your proficiency for star reading. He has asked that you stay for an additional month to continue studying. He says he can teach you three techniques in next six weeks time, and Yao has agreed. He will return then, as long as you approve.”

“Of course I approve,” Tas said eagerly. Everything seemed to be working in his favor now.

Fei nodded at the enthusiasm and sipped his tea slowly. They rose together and Tas left to go meet Shu in the trees.

When he arrived into the circle of silent monks, Shu was nowhere to be seen. Tas chose a tree and sat under its cool shade, letting himself drift off into his meditation, letting his thoughts, his mind, and his body go. His breath would take care of itself. He drifted off into the ocean of his mind, lost within the nothingness at his own core. He didn’t know how long he sat for, but when Shu woke him, his legs were completely numb. They walked together from the circle of trees and entered the grounds, following the path to the garden. Pink blossoms floated in the gentle wind and the water of the pond grew still as Shu sat by the edge. He motioned for Tas to do the same.

Shu spoke extremely slowly, Tas could hardly understand, but he leaned in to the monk’s soft words. “You are strong, Tas. Your meditation is so peaceful…” She looked a bit distraught, but mostly thoughtful. “You practice meditation with Yao?”

“Yes,” Tas said. “The old man is infuriating, but his lessons are invaluable,” Tas thought back to their journeys in the desert. He was excited to begin traveling again, but he was more excited to learn here. His meditations were indeed growing longer and longer.

“You are now a powerful meditator Tas, you can set aside your emotions easily, see clearly, but most importantly…” Shu looked at Tas determinedly, “You can empty yourself of judgement. This is the only way to see the truth. One of the first steps towards understanding god, is understanding truth, Tas. Knowledge is the key to understanding god, but you must relinquish all knowledge to truly know god.” Shu grinned, knowing that he was now talking to empty space.

Tas nodded, but he didn’t understand. He would learn, with time. But he knew that the monk was teaching him something valuable, so he remembered his words like a puzzle to be solved for later.

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krishna.com depiction of Krishna

Krishna | कृष्ण

Krishna is one of the most celebrated and loved gods in the Hindu pantheon and is generally recognized as an avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the trimurti. Krishna is a god of love, sometimes depicted as a god-child playing a flute, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, or as the supreme being as described in the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna is described in the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu PuranaHe is also named Vasudeva, Bala Krishna, Gopala, Govinda, so you may hear these names mentioned where they are referring the Krishna.

Krishna’s skin color is usually black or dark blue which is due to the word’s use as an adjective to mean black or dark blue. The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha meaning darkening. It is sometimes referred to as “all-attractive”. Most of the variances and differences occur regionally, but is easily recognized in depictions.

Krishna is often shown with cows, which is significant as representing him as a divine herdsmen, as is often shown as a baby stealing butter from the neighbors houses. It is generally accepted as possible that Krishna dates as far back in time as Shiva, to the Indus Valley Civilization, but neither can be proven to date before that time period.

In depictions for the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is often shown with multiple arms and multiple heads which denote power with attributes of Vishnu such as the chakra or as a charioteer.

Sometimes you will hear Krishna referred to as Bala Krishna and this is the child-god form of the deity and is often worshipped. He is seen as having conceived himself as a being that is one with Vishnu. This is a divine conception, rather than a virgin conception as in the bible. While his mother was pregnant, it was said that she was hard to look at because of the light that accompanied her radiance. They say that this light is in reference to a Vedic hymn that expresses an unknown divine, or golden child.

If you study Krishna, you will start to see a lot of parallels with Jesus, if you are familiar with Christianity. Both are sun-gods, or represent the ‘light of the world’. Both also seem to have been grounded in the god Osiris which is an account of a demigod of the sun, and the potential first influence of this story is from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. Some believe there to be multiple Christs, some believe that Christ was completely fabricated in about 400AD to unify the Roman Civilization under a single symbol. Most of Christianity’s roots are pagan, which largely influences the Christian Calendar to circulate with the seasons. There is a good amount of evidence that say Jesus did exist, though the bible’s accuracy is another question entirely. Almost all scholars agree that the writers were successors to the original tradition and wrote the 4 new testaments over 50 years after Christ’s death and crucifixion, so it is generally agreed that the bible is not a historically accurate document, by any means.

Moving back to Krishna, he is best known as Arjuna’s charioteer and advises Arjuna when he comes to the battle distraught and unwilling to use his bow to fight. The Gita talks about righteous war, the nature of the divine, and the eternal nature of the cosmos, which is depicted in a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna.

The relationship between Vishnu and Krishna is often debated and is viewed as complex and diverse, though many consider Krishna to be a full incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

In about the 6th century AD a movement started in India called the Bhakti movement, which then spread into the United States in 1965, when Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada visited New York from West Bengal. Krishna’s name was chanted in many public places in the US and was spread by the ISKCON (institute for Krishna consciousness). There are also stories of Krishna in Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and other Indian and southeast asian religions.

Krishna’s flute is often used as symbolism to represent revelation of the divine and Krishna is depicted with it quite often. It represents a divine dance that is the nature of the divine and that the revelations of divine come about through this mystical dance with the divine. It is said that whenever he plays, you cannot help but dance.

Here’s a little mental picture of what it might be like to experience Krishna:

You are walking through a softly floored canopy of oak trees, hiding the sun with their small leaves. Soon, you hear a soft sound in the distance, a sweet melody that you can help but want to hear more of. So you move closer, but find that you do not know the direction that the sound is coming from. So you sit, to determine where this beautiful sound could possibly be coming from.

As you sit, the sound becomes a bit louder and you begin to realize that the sound was coming from inside of you all along. And as you sit quieter, more still, more peacefully, the music gets louder and louder, until you can’t hear anything else at all. It begins to overwhelm you until you open your eyes, and there, standing before you, is a small dark blue boy, maybe 10 years old, smiling at you in a way that makes you feel the dampness of your skin.

His eyes are whiter than stars and his gaze darker than the night. The boy pulls out his flute and begins to play. Soft at first, melting your thoughts and giving you nothing to do but feel, this boy becomes more and more enraptured by the song, bringing you with him. But you soon realize that this is no boy, nor a girl; in fact, the little child has qualities of both, but perfected. As you begin to rise and then dance with the flute, you lose all track of time, where you are, even who you are. The dance is all there is and it is you, unbroken, relentless, fearless in the dark of night.

Soon you begin to tire, and though the music grows sweeter, you can no longer listen because of your fatigue. Suddenly, a light opens, splitting through you like a knife.

You open your eyes to a purely white room, 4 walls, and a single bench, cushioned, for you to sit on. The child walks into the room, but now you can tell that something in the child has changed. With a quick grin and a wink, the boy disappears and in his place is a man with hundreds of heads and many arms, though all perfectly aligned with his body in a way that you could never explain. You can hardly see the figure clearly, he is betrothed in light. Each time you try to get a better look, the figure gets blurry once again.

An overwhelming power takes ahold of you and you can no longer see the light. You close your eyes one last time and breath, aware of your full exhale for the first time. And you find yourself seated, comfortable, with the soft grass beneath you and the strong trees above. But still, you hear a gentle flute music in the background, waiting for you to begin dancing once again.

 

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Jungle_Wanderer Part6

The Wanderer, Part 6

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5

Tas woke up in his small bed, laying flat on his stomach. His back ached from the day before, he had slightly tweaked it when throwing a box aside. He was full from the night before, having eaten two dinners to make up for the long work week. Today was sunday, his day off.

The sun was high in the sky before he got out of bed and he took his time to wash and dress. Not that it was much of an event to begin with considering he wore one cloth during the day.

He set out into a hot day, broken by mists and gusts of wind from the ocean. He went to the center of town, by the fountain and wells and bath houses to meet Annu and a couple of other coworkers from the port. They would spent the day outside of the city, pulled by a cart that Annu had arranged earlier in the week.

He arrived to see them already departing. Tas realized suddenly that they would not stop for him and ran to catch up, sprinting on the cobbled roads. He jumped from a risen rock onto the side of the wooden supports and found footing. He climbed up and swung his leg over the side, tumbling onto Dill, who then shoved and rolled him into the center of the cart.

Tas rose immediately, sensing no injury and shook the dust off his body then rearranged his hard and sat. They all laughed together as he did this, first Annu howled, then the rest followed.

“We thought you had forgotten us!” Annu exclaimed in between waves of ravenous shaking laughter. Tas couldn’t help but keep a grin for the next fifteen minutes while they reveled in the morning’s events. They left the city walls and forgot the city behind them as the moved south, into the jungle.

It grew warmer and warmer as they went deeper and deeper into the semi-dark, canopy of trees. The cart became rather rickety after a bit and so Tas left the cart to walk. A few minutes later, the cart-wheel snapped and they were forced to continue on foot, taking their food and supplies with them.

Annu seemed to be extremely frustrated by the breaking of the cart, but he kept to himself and helped to portion out the goods so they could take what they needed. “They journey home will take 3 extra days,” he said as Tas collected his portion. After they had distributed evenly amongst the six of them, they ate.

Annu pulled out a surprise of beer and some other rather harsh liquid. It was after mid-day and Tas had often seen the older men drinking at night. They called it boozing. Normally, he didn’t waste his money, but today he would drink with Annu. They clinked glasses and then took huge gulps, exhausted from the long haul from the city.

“You see my friend?” Annu asked, impassioned. “This is where you can truly find god.” He hugged and tree and then soon found himself covered in ants. Tas and the other howled with laughter as Annu’s cries of passion became cries of torture. He found his way to a large puddle by the base of a tree and then ants left him with countless red spots and bites. Tas truly felt bad, but let a last chuckle escape his lips before helping his friend.

“Careful,” Patel said sharply, looking straight at Tas. Don’t let yourself be overcome by the jungle. He looked off seriously as he finished, “I’ve lost a few friends out here… and I have a bad feeling about this.” He looked behind and all around, then moved his gaze up, into the trees.

Annu, finally recovering, said swiftly, “you think we are being tracked?”

“Yah,” Patel said. “My gut tells me yes.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do. He pointed towards the thick of the jungle, “we have to head towards the temple. There will be a clearing, and the ruins we seek there. Though, we will have to travel into the night. Which is not advised.” He looked harshly into the thick of the trees, his machete readied.

For the next three hours, they cut and hacked their way through the thick jungle brush, stopping every hour for a minute for water. Tas felt as though he had sweat every inch of his energy onto the forest floor, but kept finding more and more energy. He thought back to his days in the desert and found that this was not so hard in comparison. It made him smile to think of the old man and his teachings.

Every day, the lessons seemed to make more sense, but he could not say why. Everything else seemed to be more shallow and difficult at the same time without him. Though he was still angry about his last antic. Tas’ head still hadn’t fully recovered, though he felt that eventually it would.

They came to a clearing at last, but before entering the ruined temples, Patel stopped them. Ahead, through the last of the brush, Tas could see two white tigers, huge, roaming outside of one of the ruined structures. And when the second tiger moved away from the entrance, they could see three cubs, all very small. The mother seemed to have a roaming range, but Patel turned them around.

They were lucky to have seen the tigers before going any further. The entire crew started to move further north, towards the road, until suddenly Nilesh cried from behind to run. Out of the corner of his eye, before he could start sprinting, Tas saw a flash of white leaping towards them, far away but moving so fast. He turned and ran, as fast as he could. He saw Patel in front slashing through the jungle, and trudged through the thick mud and endless brush after him. Eventually, Annu caught up to them, and so did Nilesh, though Nilesh wouldn’t speak. Having called the alarm he had been last.

That meant Corle and Vesu were lost, or injured. But the other didn’t want to return and search for them, for fear of the tigers hunting them. Annu looked very sad for the rest of the day as this had been his idea. Tas tried to cheer him up, explaining that no one could have foreseen tigers in the future, but Annu would not hear it.

They spent the night further north towards the main road, paranoid and with little sleep. Tas could see Annu in torment and began to realize that Corle and Vesu had been his friends.

Tas supposed that he felt sad, but he also felt very lucky. He had survived a beast that would no doubt kill him at a moments notice. So strong, so powerful, pouncing towards them faster than he could look. He dreamed of its prowess and felt drawn to them in a way that he couldn’t explain.

In the morning they set out to leave, but Tas did not want to. He felt that he liked the wildness of the jungle, the loud noises and the endless brush. Annu looked at him like he was crazy. How would he eat? Tas replied that he did not know, but that he was sure he could find a way. Annu scoffed at him and left without a backwards glance.

Tas couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at his friend. He would not stay forever. He was tasked with returning to the old man, but he felt as though he should stay for a small time, to learn the wild ways of this place. He could hear the voice in his head, let go. And that night, he slept like a child after his meditation that was both louder and more peaceful than any he had ever experienced. But his stomach grumbled as he moved to sleep and he knew that in the morning he would find his food in the wild  and so he grinned, unseen in the dark and noisy night.

 

 

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brain_map

Chemicals in Yoga

Everything is chemical. It is the basis of all matter in the universe.

It is easy to think of some chemicals as good and some as bad, but this is really a silly way to look at it, because most chemicals are useful in one form or fashion. Some interact poorly with the chemical composition of your body and this is why you view them as good, or bad, or what have you.

The truth is, that chemicals have a very real potential and a very real danger when misunderstood and mistreated. Some great examples are drugs, oil, water, food, really all of the imbalances that we perceive in our current world are chemical imbalances. But we ourselves are natural and chemical, so it is important to remember that being a human is having a mostly stable chemical composition.

So we can say that certain chemicals, especially purified chemicals, can be extremely potent to the human body and can enact change within the body, to produce a certain effect. This has become known as medicine, where we take mostly plants and process them, somehow to interact with the body.

Even the word ‘naturally’ is a corrupted word in modern marketing; synthesized chemicals are certainly natural, but people tend to think that natural means closer to nature, or less processed. But since processing itself is natural, everything is viewed as natural. So it is a repetitive word that can be ignored. But in any case, saying chemical is repetitive. Of course it is chemical.

What people really are referring to when they say they want less chemicals is that they want less processing, less synthesis and more extrapolation. Purity is becoming more and more preferable as an ideal in food and cleaning products and things that we are exposed to, which is really a transference from other aspects of culture, religiousness and such from our ancestors.

So its important to realize that there is nothing that happens inside of you that isn’t there. All of the chemicals in your brains are what create all of your experiences. Each one has happened inside of you. Drugs are not magical, they interact with the brain in very specific patterns, however, we have coined drugs as strange chemicals with strange effects, things to be feared. They are not things to be feared, but parts of your self to be understood. For each acts as a mirror, a specific poison giving you a window into the unknowable, into the deep fathoms of your unconscious mind. To fear a drug is to fear an aspect of yourself, and perhaps there is no greater fear than to fear yourself.

Drugs are really an internal interaction cause by the reaction of introduction of a new substance. Your experience on the drugs is your bodies reaction to them, the processing of them. It is not something that exists outside of you, although you have introduced a foreign substance into your body’s chemical make-up. So your body is essentially reacting and this is what you experience. This is why certain drugs have nearly no long-term effects and some have effects that can last a lifetime, because your body is more or less efficient at processing them. And it learns and adapts. This is why psilocybin can have less and less effects the more that you do it, the same with LSD, marijuana, etc. So there is really nothing happening outside of what your body is doing and how it is interacting and reaction to the substance that you have introduced to it.

This leads us to see the body as having an enormous potential and as understanding how we subjectively view things as changing us. In fact, we are changing ourselves.

To move on to some more significant discussion, I would like to talk about 3 substances, chemicals, which yoga seems to have a tremendous effect on. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Melatonin are in my opinion three of the most interesting molecules or chemicals in existence.

All three are hormones/neurotransmitters, all three are present in a vast spectrum of life, contributing to the homeostasis of lifeforms across the biological spectrum.

Melatonin might be the most interesting, seen in plants, fungi, and bacteria in anticipation for the daily onset of darkness. In humans, it regulates the internal clock, or circadian rhythm, as well as seasonal cycling. There are many popular uses for melatonin, but there are few studies on its long-term effects and there is almost no research to show usefulness as medicine, or therapy. Its long-term effects are almost completely unknown. However, it can be found in the retinas of the eyes and seems to interact in very strong ways with dopamine and serotonin, and has a tremendous effect on the immune system and for protecting specific important cells. It is used as a drug primarily to allow humans to co-exist in nocturnal environments.

Dopamine is an intrinsic part of the action-reward cycles of conscious attention and is extremely important for learning. It interacts strongly with melatonin and can be found in the retinas of the eyes as well. Melatonin and dopamine both interact in interesting ways to light, stimulating dopamine while suppressing melatonin. This is mostly affected by stimulants, such as cocaine (why users always want more), or ADD medications such as adderoll, conserta, ritalin, etc. By overstimulating the prefrontal cortex and the dopamine pathways within, you can keep hyperactive children quiet, because their brain is receiving added stimulation from the slow release of chemicals in their brain. It is what allows for beings to interact intelligently with their environment.

Serotonin is one of the most interesting hormone/neurotransmitters in the body. 90% of it is in the gut, yet it is known as the happiness neurotransmitter. Its is probably the primary communication device between the stomach and the brain. Again, the messenger is found in fungi and plants, and it is believed it is one of the primary factors in a feeling of abundance or scarcity of resources. It is also evidenced to have a role in social rank, because the availability of food signifies this. It can also have an effect in stimulating bone mass. Studies have also shown that nutrition in early life can have an effect upon the body later in life. This is the chemical that most euphoric drugs are attempting to target, with the exception of cocaine. MDMA is one of the purest ways to stimulate serotonin release from the synaptic vesicles of neurons.

Now lets talk about yoga. It’s easy to see how yoga can affect the dopamine system; rebalancing due to lack of stimulus. This is why many people find yoga to be tortuously boring, yet understand the effect of spending an hour and a half in mindfulness, or mediation, or whatever. Dopamine regulation is indeed a major goal of the yogic practice: to keep the fluctuations of pleasure and pain on an even keel. Thus you keep the mind from fluctuating.

Melatonin is something that seems to receive large effect from yoga, as sleep patterns have been clinically evidenced to improve from yoga classes while even studies on injected dopamine have not evidenced the same positive effects. Learning to cycle with the sun, or at least to adjust to the sun’s cycling is an intrinsic part of the yogi’s journey. “Sun Salutations” seem to have quite a bit more meaning in light of the melatonin system.

Serotonin, lastly, is one of the more interesting of the three. This is where nutrition in yoga starts to become a larger and larger factor. Eventually, you will begin to find more equilibrium within your digestive system to optimize time in the yoga studio, in the asana, as it would be. Your bodies nutrition can have a direct effect upon your happiness, though modern science has nearly no data on this type of emotional nutrition relationship. There is too much money to be made in between the science with fads such as fat-free, sugar-free, diet, which are really marketing campaigns for food manufacturers.

With yoga, you can find balance between the three systems, inverting the bodies fluids moving them around, heating them up in various ways and using various techniques, breathing, sitting still, and a certain concentration on nothing to allow the pleasure/pain/stimulus/reward system to re-balance.

Enlightenment, it seems, could be broken down into the consistent flow of dopamine, without fluctuation, seratonin flushing from the gut up to the brain through inversions such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, and continually folding forward, bending the spine back and forth to get the circulatory system pumping everything into a balanced state for the body to enjoy for the day. Intense yoga classes can also stimulate the adrenal glands in specific ways that allow for deeper relaxation and “letting go”.

Just some thoughts, some research that I did on Google Scholar, etc. If you would like me to post some supporting evidence I’ll be happy to!

 

 

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