Hangry for Sleep!

 

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Alex Grey, “Insomnia”

 

I was posting the newsletter for the monthly Yoga Nidra practice I help to facilitate. It reminded me of an acronym used in treatment, to describe various triggers which catalyze substance abuse: HALT–hungry, angry, lonely, tired.

The ancient yogis recognized these primal urges, which are identical to those of our animal brethren: self-preservation, sex, food, and sleep. The four primitive fountains.

Self-preservation isn’t merely the urge to protect one’s body from death; it is the urge to protect our numerous personae. Sex isn’t merely the urge to copulate; it’s also driven by loneliness and insecurity. Food is a necessity; but, it’s also a sensual pleasure which can overrun other urges when unchecked. But, today, I want to talk about sleep.  A blessing many of us are not partaking of.

In the Himalayan Tradition, there are three primary levels of consciousness (there are more, but brevity is helpful): waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. They are correlated with three states of energy: gross, subtle, and causal (hence, the name of the blog).

Yogis assert that the level of deep sleep in the causal plane is the most cathartic. It is the realm of pure potentiality, the place before the subtle manifestation of dreams. This is intuitive, think about the deepest sleep you’ve had… Right where you feel you’ve vanished for a while. This level is so close to the realm of pure being (or, turiya, the fourth state).

Yet, so many of us are sleep deprived–myself included.  We go to bed too late, we have too much caffeine, and there are those darn LED lights.  One article I read recently explained, soon lack of sleep will be viewed like smoking.  It asserted in the near future, we will realize the detriments: depression, obesity, and cancer.  Another NPR story suggest we get out of the city and spend some time in the dark–isn’t it bananas that we need to be reminded of needing dark!

Yoga Nidra is another name for deep sleep in the causal plane.  It is also the name of a progressive series of exercises to bring one to that place, while, paradoxically, remaining awake.  It is the psychic sleep of the Yogi .  This is a tool for developing more than better quality sleep, it is a method for dealing with negative karma.  I suggest clicking on the link that I attached above for detailed instructions on this ancient practice.

The causal plane is a womb.  It is the realm of rebirth.  A cleanse which we have the opportunity to partake in and give ourselves a spiritual reset.  Challenge yourself to try the practice for 7 nights in a row (in a dark room without caffeine) and see how you feel.

(Post 13 of 30 Days of Peace. Let peace begin with me.)

Are You Your Relationships?

WorldOneness4

I eliminated duality with joyous laughter
Saw the Unity of here and the hereafter
Unity is what I sing, Unity is what I speak
Unity is what I know, Unity is what I seek

Rumi

Part 7: 30 Days of Peace

Appearance plays a particularly interesting role in the Himalayan Tradition. The Master’s of these practices elucidate, from their direct experiences, that All that exists is One Power, One Presence, One Consciousness (call out what you will, I will NOT anthropomorphize). But, it appears to present as multiplicity.  This appearance goes by many names: maya, avidya, shakti, illusion.

The cosmological apparent multiplicity is mirrored in the microcosm. People appear one-way outwardly. But, what is going inwardly may be entirely different.

We all have different expectations for our relationships. Most of them are made from our attraction (raga) to about particular outcome: we expect loyalty, companionship, perhaps even financial support.

Some of these expectations are stated when we commit to a relationship, some of them are implied. But, this can lead to assumptions.

Furthermore, there are societal expectations and norms for where what kind of relationships we need to be in based on constructs such as: age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status.

People can disappoint us (which leads into a whole different post about expectations and attachments). They may even harm our bodies (I write this with the assumption that readers of this post know they are not merely a body).

If we allow it, all of this creates stress.

It’s no wonder many wise sages sought refuge in monasticism! Even there, unless you’re a hermit, there are still vows, obligations, and relationships with other monks!

The irony, and purpose of this post, is that it’s all the Power of the aforementioned illusion, the Leela, the Play of Consciousness.

We started this post discussing Unity, not connection–that would denote that the One could be separated.

What’s really going on is utterly magical. Through its own will the One manifests as many. Therefore, relationships are a way the One expresses its magnificence.

This is important for a seeker to understand.

We are relationships. We are the result of relationships. We create and sever them. Our actions may create humans that, in turn, share this web of karma. It sounds really ominous; but, it’s actually beautiful… We are every apparent individual that exists. We are not separated.

When we remember this we can practice lovingkindness to everyone. So many master teachers have tried to impart this wisdom. Because, as stated in many previous posts, there are no others.

One practice from this tradition is a meditation on the Four Attitudes.

  • Friendliness : an attitude to cultivate with the general public
  • Compassion : an attitude to cultivate with those who are suffering
  • Gladness : an attitude to cultivate with those you are envious of
  • Neutrality : an attitude to cultivate with those you have strong negative feelings towards

During your seated practice you can bring forth the image of a person who evokes these responses in you. You breathe and hold their image in your mind-field. Allow the attitude to fill the space and send the recipient the blessing of your positive wishes. Neutrality is the most profound of these attitudes. If you can become neutral, by remembering those who cause pain are also in pain, you may eventually progress to compassion.

Click the links!!

Hugs and Kisses for Your Soul

20 sec kiss

Twenty-second hugs are so healthy.

Twenty-second hugs make you strong.

Twenty-second hugs are so healthy.

They make you flourish all day long.

Clementine Hurt (age 5)

Hugs and kisses are good for us. They trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and make us feel safe and loved. So, does meditation. Think of it as kissing and hugging yourself!

OK, if you’re not already convinced that a regular meditation practice is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon yourself–I’ll try to bait you with a little evidentiary support.

I am writing this semi-sarcastically because the Yogis understood the profound effects their sadhana (practices) had on their body, breath, mind, conscience continuum without doing experiments on others. They were the laboratory.

But, my Master’s degree is in Public Health; so,  I appreciate a good peer-reviewed journal.

Benefits of meditation include (each one is linked to a recent peer-reviewed article):

However, these (as I’ve posted previously) are the fringe benefits.

I love teaching meditation in hospital environment. I am supremely grateful for my job. But, our focus is on the aforementioned benefits and mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to, and seeing clearly with nonjudgement, whatever is happening in our lives.

But, this benefit, as valuable as it may be (and as well-promoted as it is, right now) is also a fringe benefit (that does not diminish its value!).

The teachings of the Himalayan Master’s (the convergence of the three streams of Yoga, Vedanta, and Tantra) reveal, through repeatedly corroborated direct experiences, that there are many stages of unfolding during meditation. The physiological responses (although pleasant) are merely a threshold to cross. Mindfulness (although extremely beneficial) is a result of another doorway. But, the final stage is absorption (samadhi) with the Center of Consciousness… Which is True Inner Peace.

Part 6: 30 Days of Peace (1 day late)

Small Steps Toward Inner Peace

baby steps

Part 5: 30 Days of Peace

Why is it difficult to simply sit and meditate?

The practice should not be seen as daunting–it is your right and privilege.

Yet, so many people plan on beginning to meditate for years…

First of all, I speculate, when we sit in the silence uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions come forward.  It can be a stark contrast to the idealized bliss we associate with the image of a meditator on the beach.

In order to meditate successfully, you must develop a different understanding of your how your mind works (you don’t try to stop thinking or suppress the thoughts) you learn to  look at them as an experience–consider their transience. In a sense, you have thoughts; but, you are not your thoughts.

The problem is, at the beginning (and maybe for a long time afterwards), you identify with them– I think therefore I am (not)!

If you wanted to learn to speak a new language or learn calligraphy, you start with small steps. Instead of expecting to sit for 30 minutes and experience nirvana, just hang out with your mind.  But, do this with a playful attitude– be amused and amazed at your inner workings– 1,2,3 minutes in a quiet room, just watching the stream of thought is amazing.

The other reason people do not meditate is lack of discipline.

I know it sounds judgmental; but, I am speaking from experience.  There were many years when I liked the idea of meditation more than I really wanted to do it.  It was a great leap forward when I acknowledged that I really would rather do something else.  When I was honest with myself I could see there is greater value in getting up a few minutes earlier or turning of the TV and getting off my couch.  Believe me, I have to recommit regularly.

If you really want to go further, just begin to work with the breath.  Don’t over complicate it, deep breathing, awareness at the diaphragm (below the breastbone, above the navel) 1,2,3 minutes.  Just focus on the breath and let the thoughts come…  But, you have to get up and do it.

But, if you begin a sincere practice, I can promise the world unfolds to aid you in coming to the Center of Consciousness.

You are what you are looking for… You are the Inner Peace.

There you go, you’re on your way.

Benefits of Mini-Meditation

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Greetings seeker! While you are on the quest for enlightenment (whatever that means to you), there’s no denying our mundane lives are hectic. In fact, an aspect of mindfulness development is acknowledging busyness–as opposed to denying it. With heightened mindfulness (the practice of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives) we develop discernment to determine if our busyness is serving us. We also develop presence; we are able to handle what is put in front of us with grace and intelligence.

Recently, I had to make a choice to cleave one of my activities. My time is short and precious. There was attachment, and as a result disharmony; but, I’m feeling lightened. I made the choice from a place of deeper knowing–an awareness cultivated through meditation.

In the Yoga tradition this intelligence, the decider, is called the Buddhi. Yes, it shares an etymological root with Buddha (also bud); the Buddhi is higher wisdom.  Yoga meditation is to wipe the dust of the world off of the decider mirror do it can reflect the truth… So you can see clearly (remember what I defined mindfulness as)!

Meditation bestows numerous other treasures; I call them the fringe benefits. Those are the ones you’ll hear on Good Morning America: lower blood pressure, a healthier brain, and (this is the one they’re really pushing these days) a better sex life.

It’s totally fine if that’s all you want; but, I want the jackpot. The clear lens is just the beginning. It allows the false identities to be set aside so we can experience Union with the Truth–not merely conceptual knowledge. True absorption.

So where does mini-meditation come in? Well, first of all, none of the aforementioned bounty requires retirement to a Himalayan cave. The most important factor is the desire–the desire to attain more awareness, the desire to attain this Union. Once you find that this becomes very important to you portals will open up and draw you in. But, you have to extend your hand. The  Center of Consciousness transcends time and space. But, it does require that you routinely regularly endeavor to visit. Five minutes, even less–if you don’t even have one minute then maybe this isn’t the path for you. Believe me I’ve had to ask myself this question repeatedly.

Get up in the morning, and before you begin your tasks, splash a little cold water on your face. Next, sit for three minutes. Move your attention around your physical body. Then, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Shift to holding your attention in one space–the bridge between the nostrils is effective for steadying attention. You can repeat this process again at work, in a bathroom stall. Repeat it again before retiring. Nine minutes may change your life.

This is how my practice is at this time. I have two children, I’m a single mother, and I have a full-time job. I sit for three to five minutes in the morning, then I sit for, at least, 10 minutes in the evening. When opportunities arise for longer sittings I take them. I don’t judge myself for my life, I embrace it.