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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J2P Monday: A reorganizing body

English: yoga posture forward bend I took this...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The farther I move toward wellness, the more I am convinced that a healthy, open flowing body is just as important to becoming peace as having a mind that thinks peaceful thoughts or being a person who meditates, etc.  So I wanted to come back to J2P Monday with a post about opening the body.

Long ago I posted about muscles and their interconnections.  In that one I explored the way a muscle pulled out of alignment and/or tightened up in one area can wind up impacting muscles all over your body if it’s not healed.  Currently I’m experiencing the opposite impact of interconnectedness:  when muscles start unwinding in one place, muscles in other places start being released as well.

I began practicing yoga in 1985, several years before I began getting regular body work.  I knew my muscles needed some stretching but I didn’t yet know every single muscle was knotted up like steel, all the muscle groups were glued together, some muscle groups were glued to bones and knotted patterns were layered and crisscrossing one another.  By then so many years of twisted muscles added up to numbness.  I really had no idea how bad it was.

The first big surprise came after about two years of yoga.  I’d hit 5’5-3/4″ around age 15 and stayed there.  In 1987, at 34, I started dating a fellow who claimed to be 5’5-3/4″.  Since I was clearly taller I said that couldn’t be.  So we measured ourselves.  I’d stretched to 5’7-1/4″!  At that point I figured I’d just about finished healing my muscles.  HA!!  I’d mostly just stretched the glued-together muscles enough to be taller.

A couple years later I began regular deep tissue massage treatments from a woman who specialized in tough cases (doctors sent people to her when they gave up)–and eventually named me one of the top 3 toughest she’d ever encountered.  As she worked, I’d periodically realize I’d lost my sense of balance in the standing yoga postures (all of which require some degree of balancing to hold them steady and without falling over).

Twenty-six years later I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to recalibrate all those postures to suit changes caused by big releases in my muscles.  One area opens and many things start moving in the body.  Suddenly the combination of muscles I use to balance and how I hold them no longer keeps me steady.  Each time it happens I have to re-learn those postures and my sense of balance in them.  Kind of a nice metaphor for how spiritual growth requires regularly re-tuning your life.

English: This is a corrected version of an ima...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many practitioners over the years noted my tilted sphenoid.  The sphenoid is a bone more or less in the middle of your head, behind your eyes.  Most of the muscles you use to chew are attached to it, so if it’s tilted it’s pulling all of those muscles out of alignment.  Those muscles connect into your jaw and from there into muscles that go down into both sides of your neck and then through various interconnections all the way to your feet.  If it stays tilted (and craniosacral practitioners treat a LOT of people for tilted sphenoids) it eventually impacts down both sides of your body from head to toe.

For me that tilt was just one of a number of crisscrossing patterns in my head and a number of them connect(ed) to other places throughout my body.  My sphenoid is now more or less straightened and that system of muscles is sorting itself out.  A few knots in my head open and an hour or two later something snaps open in my shoulder or stomach, hips, groin, knees, ankles, feet…  Many bones have been held out of alignment.  So as these muscles open there are shifts occurring as every muscle and bone in my body adjusts to each new release.

One thing I see ever more clearly is how the healing of my physical issues has been central to my journey of spiritual and personal growth.  All my blocks and issues were written on my body and only by healing it can I open the energy flow and connect with my divine self.

Not only have I re-calibrated my balance as my muscles released but the way I experience energy and how it flows from practices like The Eight Key Breaths and The Five Tibetan Rites keeps changing as well.  When I began this journey I could sense an overall calm and a kind of general uplifting of energy from affirmation, meditation, practices, etc. but nothing more refined.  As my muscles open, I continually feel more nuances.  Sometimes it’s an awareness of energy flowing in many places where I’ve never felt it before and sometimes it’s an awareness that a particular chant or practice ignites one specific chakra or builds energy in one part of my body more than others — and sometimes that changes the next time a bunch of muscles open.

The more I feel these many nuances, blessings, and benefits of healed muscles and a body that’s open to allowing the flow of prana (vital force energy) to move freely through it, the more I feel this aspect of the journey is much more crucial than it’s often given credit for being.

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