“Sharing French Fries With a Stranger in the Chicago Airport” – By Carmelene Melanie Siani

I am working on what’s turning out to be two more parts of my series on practices, but this Kindness Blog post is such a good tale of staying in the moment and holding focus on the positive I couldn’t resist sharing it

Kindness Blog

I had been sitting at the bar in the Chicago airport talking congenially over drinks for 20 minutes or so with a young woman from Berkeley, California. 

She worked in production for a film company, was flying to Burbank and was a total stranger.

“Are you done with your French fries?” I asked as she pushed her plate away.

“Oh, sure” she said, nudging that same plate towards me. “Help yourself.”

The TV was on. She had just finished saying that she was worried about the election and about the terrorist shootings.

“It’s like the world is falling apart,” she lamented.

She was worried about our future, about our country and about feeling unsafe in an unsafe world.

“Pay attention to the world around you,” I told her, “The one you live in.  Don’t pay attention to the one that is translated for you by that,” I said, gesturing towards…

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PART 2: PRACTICES AND CREATING NEW GROOVES

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I wrote some general benefits of regularly performing sacred practices.  Now I want to talk about how those benefits help you to create new patterns.

Ten years ago, when I bought What the Bleep:  Down the Rabbit Hole, I watched it over and over.  And I especially played certain sections about the science multiple times.  One of the pieces that had a huge impact was the stuff about how we create neural nets, the patterns of thinking and habits of doing that become the fabric of our lives.

The news that an overload of negative patterns can shift your peptide receptors so you can no longer take in positive thoughts, foods, etc.  resonated deeply for me.  And, of course, the idea that you can change those patterns was something I’d been working on since I started off in 1985 with the “you create your reality with your thoughts” philosophy (for more recent converts/younger people, think Law of Attraction).

Most of what I worked with on the creating reality front was mental.  Although my therapist also taught me a number of meditations in which I could release or change something, the process was by and large mental.  And I believe changing your mind is a crucial part of the process.

But it’s not the only way you can make changes.  And, over the course of 30 years of performing various practices, I’ve come to believe that practices can make a huge difference in changing patterns.

BACK TO MINDFULNESS

As noted in Part 1, most spiritual practices, if done with focus and attention, can help train you to keep your mind more quiet and focused in the moment.  If you want to change your thinking, it’s just about impossible to do if you can’t stay mindful enough to realize when you’re running negative tapes or falling into old patterns.

Although I’ve met a few people over the years who seemed to be able to encounter Wayne Dyer or Louise Hay, flip a switch and suddenly be positive all the time, for most of us it requires a lot of work to even notice all the negative tapes playing in the background.  And without mindfulness training of some sort, I don’t see how you can stay present enough to turn around those negative thoughts.

The critical editor in your mind, who constantly criticizes, complains, and points out the bad in everything, tends to run rampant and keeps a flood of those kinds of thoughts racing around.  That becomes a groove; a set of neural nets that only notice and only run unhappy thoughts.

Practices that train the mind to be more quiet over time start creating a new groove in which the mind becomes more comfortable without the constant chatter and it slowly becomes easier to stay aware of your thinking and change its direction.

THE CALM AND BALANCED GROOVE

When I do a yoga set or the Five Tibetan Rites or “sit vipassana” I always notice that the state of balance and calm these practices induce lasts for hours afterwards.  Over the years, these hours of calm have created a new pattern of serenity that carries into pretty much all areas of my life.  And I doubt you’ve ever known anyone who was any more tense, anxious, and neurotic than I used to be:-)

Combined with the greater mindfulness the practices have also created, I can much more readily notice when anything has thrown me off balance and almost immediately call back the calm.

A big component of Feldenkrais’ and Robert Masters’ (student of Feldenkrais who created the Psychophysical Method I use in my teaching) work is the idea that if you notice how your body normally is held and then do something to release it and purposefully note the change, you will eventually create a stronger pull to the one that feels better.  I think of it as making a new neural net or pattern.

I think the calm, balance and serenity of these practices affect you the same way.  When your mind starts contrasting the anxiety or tension before you practice with the peacefulness afterward, it moves toward the pattern that feels better and begins to hold it more often and more strongly.

I also find after I’ve done the Eight Key Breaths or chanted the Lovingkindness chant, for instance, the negative tapes and thoughts just don’t have a foothold for a while.  My mind is more positive when I feel that centered and balanced.  I’ve noted it’s a great time to say or listen to affirmations as my whole being is more receptive from that calm space.

BYPASSING THE MIND

I tried for a long time to make these changes mainly through mental processes.  I wanted to “think away” the negative thoughts.  I’ve known a LOT of people over the years who want to accomplish the spiritual journey only by working on the mental side.

Over time I’ve learned there are too many levels to us to work just on the mind.  I’ve also found that the ego more easily controls, blocks and redirects mental efforts.

Most of the practices I’ve ever encountered work much more on the spiritual, physical and sometimes emotional levels.  Movement practices often open key areas of the body so both blood and prana flow more readily everywhere.  Sometimes they stretch muscles enough to release emotions and issues held within.

Even more important, they build energy and help to bring it into balance.  When the energy is flowing freely and is balanced, it can shift you more profoundly than just changing your thoughts.

I’ve found it’s often easier to shift if I bypass my mind with practices than if I try to force my mind to change.  About 8 years ago I went back to faithful practice of the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung.  As I wrote a while back, I felt I needed to approach my remaining physical and emotional issues and blocks with energy.

I generally always have several types of practices and some body work going at the same time, so it’s hard to credit one particular thing, but the fact that I’ve finally been pushing through the hold-out muscles and issues can be credited in large part, I feel, to doing those practices.  While I’ve also had AMAZING body work and I also credit the great therapists I’ve seen, I’m not sure their work would have worked as well without the energy practices opening and moving and shifting as much as they did (still do…).

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As you can see, I really love doing various practices and I absolutely believe those practices have been a major component in the many, many ways in which my life has changed.  In the final part of this series I’ll explore how many of us sabotage ourselves by not practicing and some of the reasons why.

Part 1: Practices and Creating New Grooves

chi gung-ish

I’ve had a few conversations going lately about doing or not doing practices and they’ve had me thinking about why I feel so strongly about regularly doing spiritual practices of some sort.  This is one of those posts that became long and complex as I worked on it so I’m dividing it into parts.  Today I’m exploring the general benefits of doing practices and in Part 2 I’ll discuss how they help in creating new patterns, new neural nets, etc.

As mentioned in older posts, I’ve practiced yoga pretty steadily since 1986.  Though the type of yoga and the specific asanas have changed periodically it’s the one practice I’ve kept steadily in my life.  But I’ve also been faithful in cycles of varying length (weeks to years) to guided meditations, vipassana meditation, the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites, Flying Crane Chi Gung, metta practice (the lovingkindness chant), singing chants, pranayama and more.

You’ll note most of that list involves ancient practices.  I particularly appreciate the legacy of old traditions because they were so adept at creating practices that balance, open, deepen, clear, etc.  Most of them operate on more than one level and have powerful impacts.

MINDFULNESS

Because of the current popularity of vipassana-style meditation, I think “mindfulness” is often associated solely with those sitting meditations in which you work on emptying your mind.  But I think most ancient practices can become tools for greater ability to focus the mind in the moment.

I also think most of the ancients brilliantly offered breathing exercises, moving exercises, meditations, spoken chants, and singing chants in order to allow people of different temperaments and propensities to choose the practice(s) best suited to them.

Some examples of how I think you can become more mindful:

  1. Any moving practice I’ve done, whether Flying Crane or Korean Zen walking meditation or Tai Chi walking meditation, etc.involved careful attention to each movement and had a particular pattern to the breath. It’s a challenge to focus your mind enough to be aware only of the movement and the breaths in each moment but the attempt to hold that focus helps to train your mind to stay quiet.
  2. Chants, whether spoken or sung, require keeping your mind from wandering away from the words of the chant. When I keep bringing my awareness to only the chant, my mind slowly clears and becomes deeply attuned and focused.
  3. Guided meditations require you to follow the instructions. If you work on paying attention and staying with the relaxation or the visions or the feelings you’re being told to move through, you focus your mind.  I make it a point when I do a guided meditation, to keep releasing thoughts and bringing my attention back to hearing and following the instructions without letting my mind wander.

 

ENERGY

I’ve never met any practice that hasn’t affected my energy in some way.  Many of them are specifically designed to balance chakras or energy.  Many are designed to open energy pathways (nadis).  Often they raise vital force energy (prana, chi).

Chanting practices often use words that specifically affect one or more specific chakras and some chanting practices have you actually focus on moving energy from one chakra to another as you chant.   The impact ignites the chakras on which you’re focused and generally raises your general energy level.

Many movement practices open joints and key places to help energy flow more freely.  In Flying Crane, you not only open major joints but you continually build energy at the sea of chi (center) and move it through your body and from heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven.

Open, balanced, flowing energy is a key component to living in the bigness of your Divine Self, so I see such practices as crucial – no matter which one(s) you choose, just choose one or more.

PHYSICAL BALANCE

In part because of the way these practices move energy through your body and in part because of the way some of these practices have you move your body and use your muscles, your body winds up in a lovely place of balance – or at least more balance than what you started with.

I find the build up of energy causes the increased flow to push up against knotted places, sometimes enough to open some knot or create a slightly greater passageway so many of them also help to open my body.

CREATING NEW GROOVES

The most important thing for me about the ongoing effect of doing practices is that they’ve helped me to create new grooves, patterns, mindsets.  Part 2 is going to go into more depth about how practices help you transform.

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A nice meditation for Collective Prayer Sunday

When I started down an unintended spiritual path with lots of 80’s New Age practices, I frequently listened to/practiced guided meditations.  Somewhere along the way I by and large wandered away from it.  Lately I’ve been in the mood for them again and most of my old stuff is in formats I can no longer play, so I’ve been dipping in to offerings on YouTube.

I’ve found a few things I like and have a growing list of more to try.  Yesterday — after midnight so technically during CPS — I found this one.  Not only did I enjoy it, but even though it started out as a personal thing, it wound up with lovely healing and praying for peace for the earth, so I thought it suited the idea of Collective Prayer Sunday very well.

Enjoy!

I AM Invocation — bluebutterfliesandme

Sindy’s post today is just what I needed; hope it’s that for someone else:

Final Stage of Preparation Patricia Cota-Robles July 1, 2016 2016 has been a year like no other. Day by day, we have been experiencing shifts of energy, vibration and consciousness beyond anything Humanity or Mother Earth have ever been able to withstand at a cellular level. These amazing accelerations were made possible through the […]

via I AM Invocation — bluebutterfliesandme

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