Fully Experience The Present Moment!

Experience Present Moment

This is a continuation of Bob Weisenberg’s essay: Six Big Ideas Of Yoga. This is the third of the Six Big Ideas:

The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully experience the present moment, since each moment of consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.

One of my favorite Yoga stories is the one about the young American who makes an arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas, seeking to learn the secret of life and happiness from one of the greatest Yoga gurus.

Once in the Himalayas, he travels five days up into the mountains, through many trials and difficulties. Finally he reaches the high mountain pass where the great old man in a white robe and long flowing grey hair sits in lotus position, staring peacefully off into space.

The young man sits down next to the guru and assumes a similar pose, waiting for his words of wisdom. An hour goes by. Then several hours. Then a day, then several days. He feels extraordinary bliss and peace. Finally the young man says to the old man, “What happens next?”

The guru answers, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

Every moment of life is precious and magical. We experience this not by striving to be happy, but by focusing, in a relaxed way, on the present moment. Most unhappiness comes from regrets about the past or worries about the future, both of which are greatly diminished by gently focusing on the present moment.

Yoga makes no attempt to change the regrets, worries, or other suffering we face, but merely to provide a different perspective on them by making us aware of the wonder of life beyond our current preoccupations, no matter how important or serious they are.

Focusing on the present moment, we cannot help but become tuned into the wonder that is just being alive and conscious. No effort is required, just a relaxed shift in consciousness–a simple receptivity to the indescribable wonder of being alive and conscious at this very moment.

We don’t need to try to force ourselves to feel good, as in “positive thinking”. When regrets and worries occur, we don’t need to fight them. Instead, feel them just as they are, without judgment, then gently refocus on what’s going on right now in the current moment. The current moment is rarely unhappy in and of itself.

You might say, this is all well and good if one is already content and happy, and one’s problems are relatively small. But what about the truly serious pain and anguish that happens in everyone’s life, to one extent or another?

It would appear that the more stressed and troubled one is, the more helpful Yoga might be. Yoga and Yoga-like techniques are being used today for the treatment of even the most overwhelming grief and health problems, including tragedies like terminal illness and the loss of a loved one. Like acupuncture before it, “mindfulness” meditation is starting to be studied and proven scientifically in the West.

You might think if one is “present-focused”, one would just sit around like a wet noodle all day and do nothing.

Surprisingly, I find the opposite is true. Since my regrets and anxieties are reduced to relative insignificance (still all there, but put into perspective by the awareness of continual wonder) I find myself with more pure energy to do everything.

I’m able to give myself more completely to other people in conversation. I find myself enjoying or easily tolerating things that would have made me very unhappy before. I am more objective and creative about solving problems.

And, without being false, forced or even effortful in anyway, I do have a much more constant and abiding appreciation of the everyday incredible magic that is being alive.

Continued next week: The Mind, Body, And Spirit Are Inseparable.

Credit: This has been written by Bob Weisenberg. He is Editor of Best of Yoga Philosophy and former Yoga Editor & Assoc. Publisher of elephant journal. He is the author of Yoga Demystified and Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell, as well as Co-editor of Yoga in America. For more details visit: http://bobweisenberg.wordpress.com/

Six Big Ideas Of Yoga
Each Of Us Is Already Wondrous!
Our Wondrous Nature Is The Same As The Wondrous Universe!

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The Yogi Healer

Paramahamsa Yogananda

Paramahamsa Yogananda

This is a story that unfolds when the legendary Yogananda had returned to India from the US to visit his Guru. Yogananda accompanied by his younger brother and a few others decided to visit the “Kumbh Mela”. This story is related by his younger brother Sananda Lal Ghosh who refers to him as “Mejda” or “Middle brother” in Bengali. We see in this story how some people are blessed with remarkable healing powers:

Our guide then took us to the other side of Ganges to visit another remarkable sage who, it was said, had healed many persons of incurable diseases. He was seated on a hillock in front of a ceremonial fire, and was surrounded by his devotees. We climbed the mound and seated ourselves near the sage. Mejda asked about his healing power. The sait replied in Hindi: “What is unusual about it? You are also healing others with the same power.” Mejda remained silent. After a short time we bowed respectfully and left. Mejda remarked: “He truly has the power of God.”

While we were resting at Prasad Ghosh’s home one afternoon, his second daughter, Chaya, about eight or ten years old, was either playing on the high wall surrounding the house or climbing on it in order to pick the fruit from a nearby tree. She slipped and fell, uttering a piercing cry. We rushed outside and found her lying on the ground, unconscious. She was carried into the house. From her posture, and from the swelling in the spinal area near the waistline, it was feared that she might have fractured some vertebrae. They were going to rush her to the hospital.

Mejda came into the room and asked the weeping mother and relatives to step aside: “Let me see her back.” Laying the child face down, he began to offer silently some prayer or chant as he sprinkled cold water on her back. This process lasted about fifteen or twenty minutes. Then he sat down besides the still form, placed his hand over the injury, and meditated for about half and hour. We all stood silently around them. Suddenly Mejda stood up and took hold of the little girl’s hand, and with a sharp jerk, lifted her to her feet. “Get up!” He said. “Nothing has happened. You are all right.”

Fully conscious now, Chaya saw everyone staring at her; she became shy and ran over to her mother and buried her face in her mother’s sari. Mejda quietly left the house.

Editor’s note: Though this story is about healing powers, we must be extraordinary cautious in taking recourse to these. Our first choice should always be to take normal medicine, as Yogananda, and his followers did. Healings as described here are extremely rare.

Credit: This account is provided in the book Mejda written by Sananda Lal Ghosh.

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Our Wondrous Nature Is Same As The Wonder Of The Universe!

Self Is Universe

This is a continuation of Bob Weisenberg’s essay: Six Big Ideas Of Yoga. This is the second of the Six Big Ideas:

“Our wondrous nature is the same as the infinite wonder of the universe.”

What fills you with wonder and awe? Is it the staggering beauty of the Grand Canyon? A Mozart opera? Walking through a garden blooming with flowers? A jumbo jet passing overhead? The birth of a child? A Brett Favre touchdown pass?

The big things are obvious. We all know what that kind of wonder feels like.

The wonder of a galaxy is obvious. Think about its hundreds of millions of stars rotating around a central axis, and the whole galaxy itself barreling at an incredible speed through space. And then think about the fact that there are millions and millions of galaxies!

What about a paper clip? In many ways a paper clip is as wondrous as a galaxy.

To begin with, like the galaxy, a paper clip consists of millions and millions of things (molecules, atoms, and the even smaller quarks) interacting with each other in complex ways. Then consider what happens to all these tiny elements and how they have to interact with each other. They’re not spinning around an axis like the stars in a galaxy, but, then again, a galaxy can’t bend and spring back into shape like a paper clip can.

If you were small enough to stand on the nucleus of an atom within a paper clip, it would be a lot like standing on earth surrounded by stars.

Now, consider what it took to design and make that paper clip–the metallurgy and engineering that led to the precise formulation of just the right flex, the mines that had to be dug to extract the raw materials, the processing plants that transformed the raw materials into the right metal, the machines that had to be designed and built to manufacture thousands of paper clips a minute.

Somewhere in the world, there is a person who is an expert in paper clips, for whom the whole world revolves around the design and manufacture of paper clips. He or she can tell you the entire history of the development of the paper clip, and what people did before there were paper clips, and who invented it, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of all the different possible designs and materials for paper clips, and the future of the paper clip, and where we go from here, etc. etc.

Convinced yet? In reality, everything within our perception is utterly fantastical and pretty much unfathomable. If a paper clip is wondrous, is not everything wondrous? What’s surprising is that we are not in a continual state of gaga just perceiving whatever is in front of us at any given moment.

Really, living is like walking though an incredible kaleidoscope. Consciousness would be like a perpetual hallucination if we didn’t have automatic mechanisms for just getting used to the pure wonder of what we see, hear, and feel. But instead, most of the time we are simply oblivious to it.

Yoga seeks to put us back in touch with the infinite wonder of just being alive, starting with the wonder of ourselves, then the wonder of the universe. And then Yoga wants us to understand that these wonders are one and the same, because our wondrous selves are an integral part of that infinitely wondrous universe.

But if we and the universe are so wondrous, why don’t we experience life like that most of the time? How do we turn this blockbuster insight into an everyday experience? Next: Fully Experience The Present Moment

Credit: This has been written by Bob Weisenberg. He is Editor of Best of Yoga Philosophy and former Yoga Editor & Assoc. Publisher of elephant journal. He is the author of Yoga Demystified and Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell, as well as Co-editor of Yoga in America. For more details visit: http://bobweisenberg.wordpress.com/

Six Big Ideas Of Yoga
Each Of Us Is Already Wondrous!

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Seven Secrets Of Brain Health

Secrets Of Brain Health
The human brain is an extraordinary resource. It plays a leading role in manifesting consciousness. It is through consciousness we live and express ourselves. This is why brain health is important for quality of life. Since the brain acts as a command and control center for important body functions, brain health also has a significant bearing on our longevity. Rather than taking our brain health for granted we should concern ourselves with taking good care of it. Here are seven secrets for a healthy brain:

1. The brain is not static – The view that the brain does not grow or improve after adulthood has now been discarded. The brain continues to grow and develop throughout our lives. If we do not take care of it then it shrinks at the rate of 0.5% per year. Our brain can improve by adding new neurons, improving the myelination (coating) of existing neurons, and by creating new connections between neurons. There is no age limit when this can happen.

2. Sleep – Adequate sleep is the single most important thing for good brain health. It is during sleep that the brain is able to do housekeeping activity like getting rid of waste products, processing information, and carrying out necessary repairs and maintenance. We need 7 to 10 hours of sleep for good brain health.

3. Brain killers – Know things that are the brain killers. These are things that damage the brain:

  • Stress – A mind body that is stressed produces brain activity that does not allow new connections to be formed. Lack of adequate rest and relaxation allows toxic waste to build up and prevents the healthy regeneration of the brain.
  • Alcohol – We are all aware that consumption of alcohol changes our behavior and how we feel. This happens because alcohol has an immediate impact on brain chemistry. When our consumption becomes heavy and persists for long periods the damaging nature of alcohol becomes more prominent and can be seen through the development of brain lesions. Alcohol interferes with creation of new neurons and in housekeeping functions that restore brain health. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Sleep Apnea – This is a condition that disrupts sleep. Most commonly this happens because of blocking of airways. Sleep apnea is a very dangerous condition and must be treated immediately. From the point of view of the brain it literally starves the brain of oxygen. It is also damaging to the brain because it prevents restful sleep.
  • Sugar – Diabetes and high levels of blood glucose has been linked to elevated risk of dementia and a smaller hippocampus. It is now coming to light that chronic consumption of sugar damages our liver and our overall health and this can also impact our brain health. Avoid foods where sugar has been added.
  • High saturated fat – A diet of high saturated fat has been associated with degradation of learning and memory capacity. Avoid food that has been fried or cooked at high temperatures in oil or lard. It is when high saturated fat is combined with high temperatures as in frying or baking, is that when it is most damaging.

4. Brain foods – BDNF (Brain derived nerve growth factor) is a protein generated by neurons. It is considered as a “fertilizer” for the brain that helps with repair of existing neurons and growth of new ones. It is widely believed that eating adequate quantity of “brain foods” helps with the generation of BDNF in adequate levels in the brain. This in turn helps regulate hunger and prevents binge eating. Here are some of the important “brain foods”:

  • Omega- 3 fats and DHA are the most important brain food. You can get this from fish or algae. (Warning: farm-raised fish may not have these.)
  • Curcumin (Present in Turmeric) is a star brain food. Adding crushed pepper to turmeric helps with absorption of Curcumin.
  • Antioxidants and flavonoids found in: nuts (Pecans, pistachios, walnuts), leafy greens and vegetables (Spinach, beet, and tomato), and fruits (apples and berries) are all great brain foods.
  • Coffee and tea- Both these are great brain foods. The only warning is that these should be had in moderation so that they do not interfere with sleep. The other warning is that these should be consumed without sugar.

5. Meditation & Yoga – Our brain activity can be measured as electrical signals. Various activities can have different frequency of electrical activity. Normal activity has “Beta waves” associated with it. What is important for brain health is brain wave activity that has “Alpha waves” or “Theta waves”. Usually these are generated when we are relaxed or sleeping. Meditation can help with relaxing the mind-body and generating beneficial brain activity. Regular practice of yoga can help with reduction of stress levels, improved sleep, and improved brain health.

6. Exercise and activity – A brain is healthy when it is adequately stimulated. This means you have to be physically and socially active. Adequate amount of physical activity is a must. This may include walking or jogging, playing a physical game such as tennis or basketball, swimming or hiking, etc. Regular social interaction and activity is also mandatory. (Sorry spending time of Facebook does not constitute social activity!)

7. Challenge your brain – The brain has a tremendous capacity to expand when challenged. A brain that is not challenged can wither from disuse. The brain is also incredibly lazy and quickly devises shortcuts in order to avoid working hard. You have to push it and take it out of its comfort zone to challenge it. When this happens the brain grows and expands. Learning new things, playing memory games, going to new places, starting new hobbies, solving puzzles and challenges, are all great ways to keep your brain in top shape. It is never too late to start.

The brain is an incredible organ. Even more incredible is the fact that we have the power to shape it and keep it healthy. Santiago Ramon said, “Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain”. Are you ready to take matters in your own hands and sculpt your brain into a healthy and incredible instrument for good?

You may also like: Yoga Has Rewired My Brain!

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah. Based on the book “Boost your brain” by Dr. Majid Fotuhi an internationally recognized neurologist.

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The Stuff Of Life

The Stuff Of Life

Lisa Beamer was on Good Morning America – If you remember, she’s the wife of Todd Beamer who said ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington DC back on 9/11. She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him.

Lisa recalled this story:

“I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.

With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘Class is over, I would like to share with all of you, a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment. Perhaps this is the power’s way of telling us that we must make the most out of every single day.’

Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, ‘So I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the “stuff” of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.”

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.

Take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot. Or walk on the beach at sunset. Stop off on the way home tonight to get a double dip ice cream cone. For as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn’t do.”

You may also like: 365 Grateful

Credit: Source unknown. Came to us via e-mail.

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