Lao Tzu Speaks for Today

ESSENTIAL TAOIST WISDOM FOR LIVING IN POLITICALLY CHARGED AND CHAOTIC TIMES

August 29, 2018

Dylan Charles, Editor
Waking Times

There’s an old saying, rumored to be an ancient Chinese curse, but it’s been a favorite in the West for some time now.

“May you live in interesting times.” 

Political figures like to use it when they want to emphasize just how screwed up things are. For example, Robert Kennedy is quoted here from a speech in 1966:

Sounds pretty much like today, as the times are indeed interesting. Shocking and unbelievable things are happening all around us, and with information technologies we can choose to internalize struggles, tragedies and disasters that are far outside of our sphere of personal experience or control. It’s easier than ever to take on the weight of the world.

The burden of doing so is quite heavy, though, manifesting as stress, anxiety, depression, self-abuse or the abuse of nature, conflict big and small, anger, disease, uneasiness, unhappiness, and most insidious of all, fear. In short, absorbing the world’s problems is self-destructive. To resolve this within ourselves, however, it most often only takes a shift in perspective.

Lao-Tzu, the Old Master of Taoism, condensed the human struggle into the prose of the Tao Te Ching. It’s not a religious text, as it doesn’t hail a deity or command you to construct a belief system on its behalf. It’s a simple book of observations about the nature of nature, something that after 2500+ years still manages to serve as a salient guide to living well. For those who understand it, it offers a way of being that helps keep the madness of change at bay.

In times such as these, when uncertainty and chaos seem to be rising against the established order, and when so much discourse is focused on politics and untouchable events and circumstances, it really is up to the individual to create peace, harmony and balance within themselves.

But as humans, we have a tendency to try to control that which is beyond our control, in turn contributing evermore to the development of chaos and disorder. In truth, it is far easier to navigate such discord than we believe, and the way is far simpler than we imagine it to be. Consider for a moment the Taoist view regarding such interesting times.

From verse 16:

When society changes
from its natural state of flux,
to that which seems like chaos,
the inner world of the superior man
remains uncluttered and at peace.
By remaining still, his self detached,
he aids society in its return
to the way of nature and of peace.
The value of his insight may be clearly seen
when chaos ceases.

Here we are informed of the value of tending to the inner world first, which requires the gumption to detach and allow things to be as they are. We are encouraged to let go of personal expectations in order for muddled waters to clear.

From verse 17:

The sage does not expect that others
use his criteria as their own.

It is virtuous to allow others to hold whatever insane beliefs and ideas they choose to, and disengage from the struggle to enforce our opinions and values onto others.

From verse 18:

When intellectualism arises,
hypocrisy is close behind…

When the country falls into chaos,
politicians talk about ‘patriotism’.

From verse 57:

Govern your country with integrity,
Weapons of war can be used with great cunning,
but loyalty is only won by not-doing.
How do I know the way things are?

By these:

The more prohibitions you make,
the poorer people will be.
The more weapons you possess,
the greater the chaos in your country.
The more knowledge that is acquired,
the stranger the world will become.
The more laws that you make,
the greater the number of criminals.

Therefore the Master says:

I do nothing,
and people become good by themselves.
I seek peace,
and people take care of their own problems.
I do not meddle in their personal lives,
and the people become prosperous.
I let go of all my desires,
and the people return to the Uncarved Block.

Doing nothing, as advised in the Tao Te Ching, runs in opposition to the cultural zeitgeist, but just imagine how quickly things would change if more people chose to withdraw and not participate in the insanity all around us.

Final Thoughts

As individuals we face the same challenges as all of those who’ve come before us. We’ve always had to survive and procreate while striving for progress. That’s the human journey in nutshell, and while it isn’t always pretty, it’s always the same story, no matter how complex things become.

Our role, then, is the role of the sage, which is to act in accordance with nature rather than to resist nature.

from:    https://www.wakingtimes.com/2018/08/29/essential-taoist-wisdom-for-living-in-politically-charged-and-chaotic-times/

Holistic Medicine & Cancer

Finding Resolution in Acceptance

My Hellish Health Journey & The One Thing That is Changing Everything

SHARMINI GANA
Collective Evolution

Finally, after over a decade of dealing with multiple undiagnosed physical and emotional symptoms (due to chronic stress, I later realized), I recently experienced a massive shift that is changing EVERYTHING — my health, my emotions, my life.

I was frustrated, exhausted, and suicidal, ready to call it quits many times over the last few years. It was the most painful experience, yet also the most educational, now that I am coming out on the other side of such a dark period. I discovered that a major part of healing, just like illness, is SELF created.

Yes — you create your own pain and suffering and your own joy and healing. Sound crazy? Maybe, but there are a ton of books and research showing that the mind-body connection exists and impacts us immensely. How you feel about yourself plays a huge role in illness and in wellness.

You Play A Role In Your Health

You are a  powerful creator, whether you realize it or not. The stories and beliefs that dominate your mind (we will call these mind programs) all day dictate how you feel and create situations and experiences for you to grow and learn.

Many of us are carrying negative self talk programs as a result of our familial, cultural, and societal influences. Our race, culture, gender, genetics, and background (socio-economic status, etc.) all influence us and the way we look at ourselves and life.

As a whole, the world we live in is filled with fear. From a young age, most of us are told “be careful, don’t do that, watch out” and many other negative phrases, repeatedly, which in return builds up a fear-based foundation of belief systems in us.

We learn to be very cautious, afraid, and obedient, so we stay within our box, confined to a limited way of living. We are not able to think beyond the walls that we have been trained exist all around us. This causes us to react with fear, worry, and anxiety when things happen to us or in our world.

Planetary Energy Shifts

Now, as the energy on the planet has shifted to being more open — we are questioning and rebelling against the status quo and the younger generation is continually pushing the envelope on our perceived limits — things are changing and more of us are becoming aware of this negative, fear driven belief system that we have been surrounded by and embedded in.

The plethora of Awakening information available online, although overwhelming at times and sometimes even controversial, has certainly played a major role in shifting things, as has social media, which has made it possible to share information on multiple platforms instantaneously, thus reaching more and more people.

Going back to the fear based belief system many of us carry, it is clear that a strong component of this is Negative Self Talk. It’s amazing to realize that you are not alone in feeling not good enough, fraudulent (even when you are “successful”), unworthy, and unconfident. These emotions create anxiety, fear, and worry, and can eventually lead to depression.

Many of us experience these feelings on a daily basis, and unbeknownst to us, these beliefs form the basis for our physical and emotional health. Of course other lifestyle factors come into play as well, such as what and how often we eat, how active we are, how we deal with our emotions/challenges, and how high our stress levels are. But there is now more and more research showing the importance of the Mind-Body Connection; it is undeniable.

How Do You Feel About You?

I will go out on a limb and say, in my experience, the biggest factor in determining our physical and emotional health is how we feel about ourselves. Yes, you read that right. How you feel about yourself dictates what kind of messages you tell yourself all day.

How would you like to live with someone who is constantly down on themselves and always judging themselves? Not fun is it? But the truth is that many of us are actually quite mean to ourselves, all day long. How crazy is that? Not only that, but we are usually in constant, deep resistance to what is happening around us as well, which further compounds the issue.

Do you see the picture here? Being hard on ourselves all the time plus being at war with ourselves over what’s “out there” in the external world is slowly and insidiously killing us.

Through my own painful and difficult journey, I came to realize that we have to feel it in order to heal it. It seems to be “normal” to resist feeling difficult emotions and feelings; instead we numb them with addictions like overeating, over drinking, drugs, TV, shopping, etc. in order to suppress and deny them. But sooner or later, they catch up with us. We can’t run away forever, but we can create a lot of suffering for ourselves in trying to escape our pain.

Instead, practice the process of ALLOWING whatever is happening and ALLOWING whatever you are feeling. Accepting (the resistance to it is what causes our suffering), embracing, and actually coming to love it, no matter what it is, is the only way to release it.

Accept Who You Are

Learn to accept your dark parts, also known as your shadow, and stop trying to deny or avoid them. What we resist, persists and magnifies, causing us even more drama. We all have dark parts; it is a normal part of being human.

Rather than run away from our fears, resentments, loneliness, pain, anger, sadness, abandonment, shame, guilt, etc., we should lean into those uncomfortable emotions and name them, write them down, and get curious. Start asking yourself questions about why you are feeling them and where they are coming from (most likely a childhood trauma or experience).

Is there an opportunity to reconsider that scene with new eyes and realize that positive things also came out of the perceived trauma/negative? Can we see that we learned and grew from that experience, rather than cling to the lopsided victim story we tend to carry around for years? If we can neutralize our one sided victim story, we balance it, and our emotions can shift and begin to heal. This is life transforming.

Stop Comparing!

Lastly, STOP comparing yourself to anyone else or where you think you should be — this is the fastest way to depression. The reality is, you are where you are and it is exactly where you need to be at this time. Anything outside of that is a Story that your mind program made up.

Shift your perception of the story or memory by balancing it and you transform yourself and the situation. It is not easy to do, as most are so addicted to their victim stories, but if you are open and willing to try it, you will experience a powerful change that will impact all areas of your life.

I was surprised to realize that I was being very angry, judgemental, and mean to myself most of the time, so I really had to practice what I preach and learn to Accept, Embrace, and Love myself. This changed Everything — my physical and emotional health started shifting almost immediately and my energy levels improved significantly.

My long-dormant creativity was ignited, after being buried under multiple layers of stress for decades. I discovered new parts of myself and feel different. I feel a renewed love of Life and at a much deeper level than I have ever experienced before. (I was a very positive, compassionate, loving person who helped people and animals in need but did not like or care for myself much.)

A powerful INNER Transformation has taken place and the results are nothing short of amazing. Try being gentle, kind and loving to yourself consistently and you will experience a whole new perspective and way of BEing.

There are good meditation apps as well as personal development apps available to help you with this process, along with many transformational books and various processes on the market. There are countless workshops, articles, and coaches to assist you with this powerful, life-changing process of learning Self Compassion.

The only person who knows what is best for you is You — so make some quiet time to meditate, go to nature, and do some research — and then INVEST in yourself. You are more than worth it.

Do I still experience challenges? Of course – challenges are a part of life and play in important role in our growth. Think about it – without obstacles, we wouldn’t have learned to deal with adversity, face our fears and realize our own strength. Challenges are not a bad thing, they force us to step up and take action, as does fear.

What is it costing you to keep feeling the way you do? Suffering and in pain, physically and emotionally? If you are ready and willing to do the work (because it IS work!) and you realize it’s time for Change — start taking small steps towards Self Connection and Self Transformation. Watch your world change.

from:    http://www.zengardner.com/my-hellish-health-journey/

Creativity to Combat Stress

UNE 15, 2016 by APRIL McCARTHY

Making Any Kind of Art At Any Skill Level Reduces Stress Hormones

Whether you’re Van Gogh or a stick-figure sketcher, a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body.

Although the researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions believed that past experience in creating art might amplify the activity’s stress-reducing effects, their study found that everyone seems to benefit equally.

“It was surprising and it also wasn’t,” said Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor of creative arts therapies. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

The results of the study were published in Art Therapy under the title “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making.” Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal, and Juan Muniz, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, served as co-authors.

“Biomarkers” are biological indicators (like hormones) that can be used to measure conditions in the body, such as stress. Cortisol was one such the hormone measured in the study through saliva samples. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed a person is likely to be.

For Kaimal’s study, 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, were invited to participate in 45 minutes of art-making. Cortisol levels were taken before and after the art-making period.

Materials available to the participants included markers and paper, modeling clay and collage materials. There were no directions given and every participant could use any of the materials they chose to create any work of art they desired. An art therapist was present during the activity to help if the participant requested any.

Of those who took part in the study, just under half reported that they had limited experience in making art.

The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower levels.

Written testimonies of their experiences afterward revealed how the participants felt about the creating art.

“It was very relaxing,” one wrote. “After about five minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need [ed] to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective.”

However, roughly 25 percent of the participants actually registered higher levels of cortisol — though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Some amount of cortisol is essential for functioning,” Kaimal explained. “For example, our cortisol levels vary throughout the day — levels are highest in the morning because that gives us an energy boost to us going at the start of the day. It could’ve been that the art-making resulted in a state of arousal and/or engagement in the study’s participants.”

Kaimal and her team believed, going into the study, that the type of art materials used by participants might affect cortisol levels. They thought that the less-structured mediums — using clay or drawing with markers — would result in lower cortisol levels than the structured — collaging. That, however, wasn’t supported by the results, as no significant correlation was found.

The study did find a weak correlation between age and lower cortisol levels. Younger participants exhibited consistently lower cortisol levels after they’d created art.

Those results made Kaimal wonder about how young college students and high school students deal with the stress that comes from academia — and how creative arts can help.

“I think one reason might be that younger people are developmentally still figuring out ways to deal with stress and challenges, while older individuals — just from having lived life and being older — might have more strategies to problem-solve and manage stress more effectively,” Kaimal said.

In light of that, Kaimal plans to extend the study to explore whether “creative self- expression in a therapeutic environment can help reduce stress.” In that study, other biomarkers like alpha amylase and oxytocin will also be measured to give a more comprehensive picture.

Additionally, Kaimal also plans to study how visual arts-based expression affects end-of-life patients and their caregivers.

“We want to ultimately examine how creative pursuits could help with psychological well-being and, therefore, physiological health, as well,” she said.

from:    http://preventdisease.com/news/16/061516_Making-Art-Reduces-Stress-Hormones.shtml

Benefits of Yoga & Meditation

How Yoga changes your Brain

By Sat Bir Singh Khalsa on Wednesday June 15th, 2016

YogaBrainMeditation

Can Regular Yoga and Meditation Improve Your Brain Function?

There is increasing evidence that yoga and meditation can improve our memory and attention, both help us to function at a higher level at work, home or in school. Furthermore, these benefits occur whether you’re new to yoga and meditation or a long-time practitioner, and studies show it might even help starve off age-related neural decline. The reason, neuroscientists have discovered, is that certain areas of our brain undergo positive structural changes when we meditate. Because the brain exhibits plasticity, which means it has the ability to change, whatever you experience will be reflected in – and have impact on – your brain structure.

Several groundbreaking studies have shown how meditation, especially when practiced over the long-term, can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions. For example, a continued meditation practice can produce a thickening of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that plays a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought and language. Like a body builder who pumps iron, the bigger his biceps get, the heavier weights he can lift. Likewise, when we meditate, we exercise the parts of the brain that involve the regulation of emotion and mind-body awareness that lead to changes in brain activity and structure, which in turn improve our memory and attention.

Studies have shown how meditation can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions.Studies show how meditation can produce significant changes in the structure and mass within certain brain regions.

One of my fellow researchers, Dr Sara Lazar of the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, found these brain changes to be especially apparent in long-time meditators. In her 2005 study, for example, MRI brain scans were used to assess cortical thickness in participants with extensive meditation experience (averaging about 9 years of experience and 6 hours per week of meditation practice), and a control group that did not practice yoga or meditation. Dr Lazar found the brain regions associated with attention, sensory, cognitive and emotional processing were thicker in meditation participants than those in the control group who did not engage in yoga or meditation.

This was the first significant study (of now more similar studies) to provide evidence for a link between long-term meditation practice and structural brain changes. Equally exciting is that the greater prefrontal cortical thickness found in the meditation group was most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that extensive meditation might also offset age-related cortical thinning. It appears that the brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing, which frequently diminishes over the years, can remain more youthful in those people who continue to practice meditation.

Alt text hereThe brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing can remain more youthful.

In another interesting study conducted at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA, differences in the brain’s anatomy and structure called gyrification (or cortical folding) were also discovered in people who meditated. Although the implications of this research remain to be fully established, the findings from this study support the possbility that meditation can lead to changes in regulation of activities including daydreaming, mind-wandering, and projections into the past or future, and a possible integration of autonomic, emotional, and cognitive processes.

And while research reveals long-term meditation can produce structural changes in specific areas of the brain that enhance our ability to learn, one does not have to practice for thousands of hours to reap the positive brain benefits. Dr Lazar also found that these increases in grey matter in some regions of the brain occurred after just 8-weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Education (MBSR), a formal program involving meditation and some yoga practice. These results suggest that even short-term participation in meditation-related practices can lead to changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions that are involved in learning and memory processes, as well as in emotion regulation.

Yoga-Brain Fact: If you practice yoga and meditation techniques on a regular basis, your brain will be better able to cope with stress and emotion. This brain enhancement will help you to maintain higher levels of learning and memory.

Long-term meditation can enhance our ability to learn.Long-term meditation can enhance our ability to learn.

Yoga makes us Smarter

Think about how we feel when we’re stressed. We might eat more, lose our appetite, sweat profusely, or simply want to bury our troubles in mindless television or computer games. What happens to our brains when we are under stress is that our bodies increase the secretion of cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. When faced with sustained, high levels of chronic stress, the associated high levels of cortisol can actually be toxic and even fatal to our brain cells. Because our hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, is particularly vulnerable to high sustained cortisol levels, we may ultimately compromise our learning and memory capacities when faced with uncontrolled chronic stress. By managing stress through yoga and meditation, you can actually improve your memory, concentration, and your ability to learn.

While researching the effects of long-term yoga and meditation, I found an intriguing study that reported improvements in attention, mood and stress over a very short time period. When a group of 40 undergraduate students were given 5 days of 20-minute meditation training, this group showed significantly better attentional abilities and control of stress than a similar control group of 40 students given only relaxation training, including greater improvement in attention, lower anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue and an elevated mood.

There was also a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol.

These studies, which are just a few of those being conducted today, clearly show a strong relationship between our ability to maintain attention and our responsiveness to stress and emotional reactivity. In other words, the more one practices the contemplative skill of controlling attention through meditation and yoga, the more one has a manageable stress response and improved emotional reactivity. Ultimately, our cognitive performance is most efficient and at its optimal level when we are more in control of our stress and emotions.

Our cognitive performance is most efficient and at its optimal level when we are more in control of our stress and emotions.Our cognitive performance is most efficient and at its optimal level when we are more in control of our stress and emotions.

The Effects of Yoga on Memory and Decision Making

Yoga and meditation not only make our brain more efficient, they also improve brain activity related to decision-making and cognitive performance. In a research study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana, scientists compared the effects of a yoga exercise session to aerobic exercise, the results showed that the memory retention and cognitive performance after yoga was significantly superior (ie. shorter reaction times, increased accuracy) to aerobic exercise. The reason yoga can be better for the brain than aerobics (although both are good), is that it allows us to cope with stress and emotions more effectively.

Long-term yoga improves concentration, processing and motor speed

Research clearly indicates that yoga and meditation, especially a long-term practice, improves the way our brain functions, including our ability to concentrate and perform well on certain tests. In one study comparing 15 yoga practitioners with a control group of non-practitioners and involving a series of tests for attention, the yoga group performed significantly better. Long-term practitioners of yoga and meditation showed greater attention span, processing speed, attention alternation ability,and performance in interference tests.

Another recent study also showed improvement in cognitive functioning and dexterity among 57 research volunteers who were given tasks requiring attention, visual scanning and motor speed. Each participant was assessed before and after three types of sessions: yoga meditation, supine rest, and control (no intervention). The results showed that the yoga condition was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning with no improvement in test skills for those who did not practice yoga and meditation.

Yoga was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning.Yoga was associated with the greatest improvements in psychomotor functioning.

Yoga Improves Computation Skills

Many people believe that equation solving and memorisation are the most effective ways to improve one’s mathematical aptitude—all of which can be extremely time-consuming and, to the math phobic, feel like an ordeal. The fact is that sessions of yoga and tai chi can also sharpen your mathematical ability. These were the findings of a Bolo University of Miami School of Medicine study in which 38 adults participated in a session that included two minutes of tai chi movement and two minutes of sitting, standing, and lying down yoga poses. The researchers measured self-reported math computation skills of each participant before and after the session. The findings showed that the tai chi/yoga participants performed better on basic math after the workout. Why? The increased relaxation may have contributed to the increased speed and accuracy noted on math computations following the tai chi/yoga class.

Yoga as a learning tool for students around the world.

Another study providing preliminary evidence that yoga may improve academic performance of children in schools was done on 8OO teenagers in India. The students in this study who were engaged in a yoga program performed better academically than those who did not do yoga. Researchers selected 159 high-stress students and 142 low-stress students. Both groups were given tests in mathematics, science, and social studies. Those who participated in a 7-week yoga program of (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation performed better in academics than those who did not do yoga. The study also concluded that low-stress students performed better than high-stream students, showing, once again, that indelible connection between stress and academic performance.

from:    http://upliftconnect.com/how-yoga-changes-your-brain/

The Psoas Muscle, Stress, & Yoga

The ‘Muscle of the Soul’ may be Triggering Your Fear and Anxiety

Psoas MusclesBrett Wilbanks, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The psoas major muscle (pronounced “so-as”) is often referred to as the deepest core, or as yoga therapist and film-maker Danielle Olson states, the “muscle of the soul.” This core-stabilizing muscle located near the hip bone affects mobility, structural balance, joint function, flexibility, and much more. In addition to its function to help keep the body upright and moving, the psoas is believed to allow you to connect with the present moment especially when it is stretched out and tension is released from the body.

Research indicates that the psoas is vital to our psychological wellbeing in addition to structural health. Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book, states that our psoas “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish.” This means that there is a lot more to the psoas than one might initially think. It is entirely possible to harness healing pranic energy and improve mental health by keeping the psoas healthy.

Where is the Psoas?

The psoas is the principal muscle associated with physical stability. It stretches from the legs to the spine and is the only muscle connecting the legs to the spinal column. The muscle flares out from the T12 vertebrae, follows down the five lumbar vertebrae, before attaching to the top of the thigh bone.

The Reptilian Connection

In addition to connecting the legs and spine, the psoas is connected to the diaphragm. Breathing is modulated at the diaphragm, and it is also the location where many physical symptoms associated with fear and anxiety manifest. Koch believes that this is due to the direct link between the psoas and the most ancient part of our brain stem and spinal cord, called the reptilian brain.

According to Koch, “Long before the spoken word or the organizing capacity of the cortex developed, the reptilian brain, known for its survival instincts, maintained our essential core functioning.” The way we live today, constantly rushing, competing and achieving, has the psoas in a constant “fight or flight” state.

psoas

Issues Associated with Chronic Psoas Stress

Trapped in a constant “flight or fight” state, psoas muscles are stressed and constricted, almost from the time of birth. As Koch notes, “this situation is exacerbated by many things in our modern lifestyle, from car seats to constrictive clothing, from chairs to shoes that distort our posture, curtail our natural movements and further constrict our psoas.” This lifelong chronic stress put on the psoas can lead to many problems like back, hip, or knee pain, and even digestive issues and dysfunctional breathing. It could also be a major cause why people suffer from chronic physical pain.

The physical body is not the only part of you that suffers from a chronically-stressed psoas. The psoas is much more than a muscle used for structural stability. It influences every element of life, from how you feel, to how you look at the world, and even how you treat others. A variety of problems have been associated with a chronically-stressed psoas muscle: it can negatively affect your emotional state; it can impact your interpersonal relationships; and it can influence your general contentment with life. Awareness that a healthy psoas is important to emotional wellness, as well as physical health, is the first step towards ensuring that we give this muscle the attention it deserves.

Koch states, “Whether you suffer from sore back or anxiety, from knee strain or exhaustion, there’s a good chance that a constricted psoas might be contributing to your woes.”

Fear and the Psoas

Since the psoas is closely linked to our “fight or flight” mechanism, fear can be over-represented in those with a constricted psoas.

It is an emotion that manifests itself in the most unusual ways and can “lock” itself into the body resulting in both physical and emotional tension. By restoring balance to your psoas muscles, you are likely to release this pent up tension, which can have a profound effect on releasing unfounded fearfulness about life, and thus improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. You will feel a greater sense of inner peace, along with fewer muscle aches and strains.

The Connection to the Energetic Body

Lengthening and releasing your psoas grounds you to the Earth, which is filled with healing and revitalizing energy, thus allowing you to balance your pranic energy and enabling you to feel more present in the moment. Proper structural stability attributed to a healthy psoas allows prana to flow, unimpeded, throughout the body, allowing for proper distribution of vital energy. In the physical sense, when the body can properly support itself, movement is less-restricted and requires less effort, thus leaving you more energetic.

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

Our understanding of the psoas is by no means new knowledge. In fact, it is more akin to ancient wisdom that was either lost or discarded over time. Yoga shows us explicitly that ancient gurus understood the importance of releasing contracted psoas muscles. Ancient yoga asanas, or postures, that are now practiced all around the world, focus on lengthening and releasing psoas muscles and restoring comfort and balance to the entire body. With consistent practice, you can learn how to isolate this muscle, which can be immensely useful and healing in the long run.

Yoga is also a great way to measure the current health of the psoas. There are many postures, such as tree (Vrksasana), which cannot be properly achieved if the psoas is contracted. If you are practicing a sitting or standing yoga pose and feel strain in either your knees or lower back (or both), then there’s a good chance that your psoas is constricted and needs more of your attention.

The psoas is an important, yet often unknown, muscle that plays a vital role in physical health and mental wellbeing. The cumulative effect of neglecting this muscle is physical and mental stress and tension, which manifests itself in our society as anxiety, depression, chronic back pain, knee pain, digestive distress, respiratory problems, etc.

Source:
https://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/the-psoas-muscle-of-the-soul/

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/the-psoas-is/

from:    http://www.wakingtimes.com/2015/06/02/the-muscle-of-the-soul-may-be-triggering-your-fear-and-anxiety/

Oils & Fragrances to Reduce Stress

One Whiff of These 10 Scents Can Relieve Stress Almost Instantly

Ever wonder why some scents make you feel relaxed or energized? It’s no coincidence and we have our olfactory system to thank for its intimate relationship with the brain, which affects both our memory and mood. Here are 10 scents which will enhance this system with just one whiff.

1) Lemon
Promotes concentration and allows the mind to calm especially when angry, anxious or very exhausted. Lemon boosts the body’s immune system, improving circulation and is known to reduce anxiety and depression.

2) Cinnamon
The stimulating properties in cinnamon can help fight mental fatigue and improve concentration and focus. Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University studied participants and found that those who took a whiff of cinnamon improved in cognitive functions like visual-motor response, working memory and attention span.

3) Lavender
Lavender helps calm the mind and body almost instantly. But perhaps its most useful benefit is its ability to help treat insomnia. This essential oil has calming ands sedative properties that help control emotional stress. Lavender has a soothing effect on nerves and can relieve nervous tension and depression as well as treat headaches and migraines.

http://www.chefursula.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/lavender-19235_640.jpg

4) Rain
After a rainstorm, especially a rain storm that breaks a long dry spell, the world smells different. The clean scent after a rainfall is partially caused by ozone cleaning away some of the scents we take for granted. The smell of rain can literally relieve stress and improve your mood by over 60%

5) Fresh Cut Grass
Scent researchers found that a chemical released by a newly-mowed lawn can make people feel joyful and relaxed. The smell apparently is so powerful that neuroscientists came up with a perfume and air fragrance that matches it so the lawnless can also reap the benefits of the feel-good scent.


6) Peppermint

Try peppermint when brainstorming. An energy booster, this scent invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking. Smelling peppermint is linked to greater cognitive stamina, motivation and overall performance

7) Vanilla
In a study published in the Proceedings of ISOT/JASTS 2004, researchers found that taking a whiff of vanilla bean elevated participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. The results were measured through mood mapping, which included emotions ranging from happiness and stimulation to apathy and irritation.

8) Rosemary
The stimulating effect of rosemary may enhance certain aspects of mental function. People who work in rosemary-scented cubicles have better long-term memory than those who worked in unscented cubicles. Rosemary improves long-term memory, alertness and has properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches and mental fatigue.

9) Pine
Pine decreases anxiety and alleviates stress. In one Japanese study, participants who went on a walk through pine forests reported significantly lower depression and stress levels. The research also discovered that anxious subjects had a greater feeling of relaxation after indulging in the scent.

10) Jasmine
Like lavender, jasmine it is also used to calm nerves, but this oil is also commonly used as an anti-depressant because of its uplifting capabilities that produce a feeling of confidence, optimism and revitalized energy.

from:    http://preventdisease.com/news/15/092315_One-Whiff-These-Scents-Relieve-Stress-Instantly.shtml

The Psoas Muscle, Fear, & Pain

The ‘Muscle of the Soul’ may be Triggering Your Fear and Anxiety

  Brett Wilbanks, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The psoas major muscle (pronounced “so-as”) is often referred to as the deepest core, or as yoga therapist and film-maker Danielle Olson states, the “muscle of the soul.” This core-stabilizing muscle located near the hip bone affects mobility, structural balance, joint function, flexibility, and much more. In addition to its function to help keep the body upright and moving, the psoas is believed to allow you to connect with the present moment especially when it is stretched out and tension is released from the body.

Research indicates that the psoas is vital to our psychological wellbeing in addition to structural health. Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book, states that our psoas “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish.” This means that there is a lot more to the psoas than one might initially think. It is entirely possible to harness healing pranic energy and improve mental health by keeping the psoas healthy.

Where is the Psoas?

The psoas is the principal muscle associated with physical stability. It stretches from the legs to the spine and is the only muscle connecting the legs to the spinal column. The muscle flares out from the T12 vertebrae, follows down the five lumbar vertebrae, before attaching to the top of the thigh bone.

The Reptilian Connection

In addition to connecting the legs and spine, the psoas is connected to the diaphragm. Breathing is modulated at the diaphragm, and it is also the location where many physical symptoms associated with fear and anxiety manifest. Koch believes that this is due to the direct link between the psoas and the most ancient part of our brain stem and spinal cord, called the reptilian brain.

According to Koch, “Long before the spoken word or the organizing capacity of the cortex developed, the reptilian brain, known for its survival instincts, maintained our essential core functioning.” The way we live today, constantly rushing, competing and achieving, has the psoas in a constant “fight or flight” state.

psoas

Issues Associated with Chronic Psoas Stress

Trapped in a constant “flight or fight” state, psoas muscles are stressed and constricted, almost from the time of birth. As Koch notes, “this situation is exacerbated by many things in our modern lifestyle, from car seats to constrictive clothing, from chairs to shoes that distort our posture, curtail our natural movements and further constrict our psoas.” This lifelong chronic stress put on the psoas can lead to many problems like back, hip, or knee pain, and even digestive issues and dysfunctional breathing. It could also be a major cause why people suffer from chronic physical pain.

The physical body is not the only part of you that suffers from a chronically-stressed psoas. The psoas is much more than a muscle used for structural stability. It influences every element of life, from how you feel, to how you look at the world, and even how you treat others. A variety of problems have been associated with a chronically-stressed psoas muscle: it can negatively affect your emotional state; it can impact your interpersonal relationships; and it can influence your general contentment with life. Awareness that a healthy psoas is important to emotional wellness, as well as physical health, is the first step towards ensuring that we give this muscle the attention it deserves.

Koch states, “Whether you suffer from sore back or anxiety, from knee strain or exhaustion, there’s a good chance that a constricted psoas might be contributing to your woes.”

Fear and the Psoas

Since the psoas is closely linked to our “fight or flight” mechanism, fear can be over-represented in those with a constricted psoas.

It is an emotion that manifests itself in the most unusual ways and can “lock” itself into the body resulting in both physical and emotional tension. By restoring balance to your psoas muscles, you are likely to release this pent up tension, which can have a profound effect on releasing unfounded fearfulness about life, and thus improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. You will feel a greater sense of inner peace, along with fewer muscle aches and strains.

The Connection to the Energetic Body

Lengthening and releasing your psoas grounds you to the Earth, which is filled with healing and revitalizing energy, thus allowing you to balance your pranic energy and enabling you to feel more present in the moment. Proper structural stability attributed to a healthy psoas allows prana to flow, unimpeded, throughout the body, allowing for proper distribution of vital energy. In the physical sense, when the body can properly support itself, movement is less-restricted and requires less effort, thus leaving you more energetic.

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

Our understanding of the psoas is by no means new knowledge. In fact, it is more akin to ancient wisdom that was either lost or discarded over time. Yoga shows us explicitly that ancient gurus understood the importance of releasing contracted psoas muscles. Ancient yoga asanas, or postures, that are now practiced all around the world, focus on lengthening and releasing psoas muscles and restoring comfort and balance to the entire body. With consistent practice, you can learn how to isolate this muscle, which can be immensely useful and healing in the long run.

Yoga is also a great way to measure the current health of the psoas. There are many postures, such as tree (Vrksasana), which cannot be properly achieved if the psoas is contracted. If you are practicing a sitting or standing yoga pose and feel strain in either your knees or lower back (or both), then there’s a good chance that your psoas is constricted and needs more of your attention.

The psoas is an important, yet often unknown, muscle that plays a vital role in physical health and mental wellbeing. The cumulative effect of neglecting this muscle is physical and mental stress and tension, which manifests itself in our society as anxiety, depression, chronic back pain, knee pain, digestive distress, respiratory problems, etc.

Source:
https://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/the-psoas-muscle-of-the-soul/

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/the-psoas-is/

About the Author

Brett Wilbanks is a freelancer writer with great interest in the overall health and wellbeing of the body and mind. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid gardener, reader, and proponent of natural, green, environmentally-friendly living.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of WakingTimes or its staff.

 

from:    http://www.wakingtimes.com/2015/06/02/the-muscle-of-the-soul-may-be-triggering-your-fear-and-anxiety/

On Stress and Healing

Dealing With Stress

HeartMath Corner‏

HeartMath Corner‏

Inside Stressing Out: What works and what doesn’t in the face of stress

March 24, 2014

 

When it comes to stress, most Americans don’t need a designated month to realize what they already know – stress is part of modern life and can’t always be avoided. Perhaps the most puzzling issue around stress is what really works when it comes to reducing it.

Recent surveys by the American Psychological Association (APA) reveal that stress is an increasing and on-going issue for Americans. More than one third (36 percent) of U.S. workers report experiencing work stress regularly, according to APA survey findings released in March. Another significant APA survey released in November revealed American families recognize they have high stress levels, but lack the time and willpower to make appropriate changes.

What is “stress?”

Stress comes from our perception and emotional reactions to an event or idea. It can be any feeling of anxiety, irritation, frustration, or hopelessness, etc.

Stress is not only created by a response to an external situation or event. A lot of daily stress is created by ongoing attitudes, that is, recurring feelings of agitation, worry, anxiety, anger, judgments, resentment, insecurities and self-doubt. These emotions are known to drain emotional energy while engaging in everyday life.

It is emotions—more than thoughts alone—activating physical changes that make up the “stress response.” Emotions trigger the autonomic nervous system and, in turn, trigger stress hormones that cause many harmful effects on the brain and body.

Stressful feelings actually lead to a chaotic pattern in the beat-to-beat changes in the heart’s rhythm–indicating that our nervous system is out of sync. When this happens, a cascade of over 1,400 biochemical changes are set in motion that have a wide range of effects on the body’s systems.

Why Today’s Stress is Different?

Experts say an important factor in today’s stress experience is that it’s not just about the single incident type of stress that naturally follows trauma, illness, job change, or other major life event. For most people it’s the wear and tear of daily life. What used to work for stress relief before may not be as effective today, because modern stress is more about the on-going levels people are experiencing.

Daily life stress can be difficult to change because of how the brain works. Through repeated experiences of stress, the brain learns to recognize the patterns of activity associated with “stress” as a familiar baseline, and in a sense, it becomes normal and comfortable. Without effective intervention, stress can become self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing.

Traditionally, stress research has focused on the mental processes that affect our perception and the body’s response to it. Some of today’s most pertinent stress research comes from the Institute of HeartMath, which has contributed greatly to the understanding the underlying mechanics of stress and its relationship to our patterned emotional responses.

HeartMath research examines the role of the emotional system in the stress process. Scientists discovered a critical link between stress, emotions, heart function and cognitive performance. From this research they have seen that while mental processes play a role in stress, the real fuel for the stress is unmanaged emotions. Simply put, emotions have the power to fuel a thought into a high-definition experience of stress.

According to the research, the harmful effects stress places on the brain and body are in fact the physiological repercussions of negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, etc.

What Works and What Doesn’t Work

Most stress has an emotional source, yet until now most of the widely used stress management methods have not focused directly on emotions. Instead, more often they focus on distraction methods, quieting the mind or trying to relax.

These practices may be enjoyable – such as taking a hot bath, or treatments like massage and aromatherapy – yet the fact remains that real solutions need to address the root cause of stress. They need to transform the deeper, recurring emotional patterns that sustain stress-producing feelings. Without essential changes at the emotional level, any other stress-relief method is likely to be short-lived.

Emotion regulation (or self-regulation) techniques are a direct and powerful way to override and transform underlying patterns of unhealthy psychological, behavioral and physiological stress responses.

HeartMath has become a leader in this area. They have developed a scientifically-validated system of techniques, programs and technologies addressing the core of the stress response. HeartMath is helping people change how they respond to stress by giving them tools to build new habits that replace their old familiar stress response patterns, which results in increased resilience and more stress tolerance.

Emotions are Powerful Energy

Since emotions – in and of themselves – are a powerful energy, it takes an equally powerful energy to transform them. Research in the neurosciences has made it quite clear that emotional processes operate at a much higher speed than thoughts because they frequently bypass the mind’s entire linear reasoning process. Thus activation of positive emotions plays a critical role in breaking the stress cycle and effectively transforming stress at its source.

HeartMath techniques focus on replacing the old stress responses by drawing on positive emotions to cultivate new patterns and more productive attitudes. In addition, these techniques incorporate a process of changing one’s heart rhythm pattern.

Emotions are tightly connected to the heart, and not just metaphorically speaking. Using the measurement of heart rate variability – the naturally occurring beat-to-beat fluctuations in heart rate – HeartMath researchers have demonstrated that distinct heart rhythm patterns characterize different emotional states.

In general, emotional stress – including emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety – leads to heart-rhythm patterns that appear incoherent and look erratic, disordered and jagged. This incoherent state puts more strain on the nervous system and the bodily organs, and it also inhibits the flow of communication and information being passed throughout all the body’s systems – the brain, heart and hormonal, immune and nervous systems.

In contrast, positive emotions – such as appreciation, care, compassion and love – generate an orderly sine wave-like pattern in the heart’s rhythms. Heart rhythms associated with positive emotions like appreciation are clearly more coherent than those generated during a negative emotional experience like frustration. As a result, communication between the brain, heart, and nervous system is enhanced.

Positive emotions are associated with a specific physiological state called coherence. This system-wide state is associated with improved physiological functioning, emotional stability and cognitive performance.

Emotion refocusing techniques are much like resetting a thermostat. A new comfort zone is established when healthier emotional patterns become familiar and positive attitudes – like new temperatures – are eventually acknowledged as the norm.

How it Works in Real-Time

According to positive psychology research positive emotions are critical to our effective adaptation to life’s challenges, and to our growth and development as human beings. They help to shape behavior by promoting helpfulness, generosity, and effective cooperation.

Using positive emotion-refocusing exercises in the moment that stress is experienced can help to change the perception of stress and greatly reduce or even stop the typical stress response when encountering a challenging or evoking situation.

Surgeons have one of the top five most stressful occupations as Dr. Joseph F. McCaffrey can attest to being a vascular surgeon at Auburn Memorial Hospital in New York. “When an anesthesiologist told me that he wouldn’t give his high-risk patient anesthesia because the patient hadn’t been evaluated properly, I almost lost it!” said Dr. McCaffrey. “This was the second such incident in less than a week. I was ready to blow up. I just about had my finger on the anesthesiologist’s chest, when I decided to use one of the techniques I learned from HeartMath.”

“Going through the technique’s steps I was able to transform my anger” Using the emotion refocusing technique enabled McCaffrey to clear his agitation and access a different perception. “I realized that the anesthesiologist was as interested in taking good care of the patient as I was. Keeping that common ground in mind, I was able to bring the anesthesiologist around to my point of view – without exploding.  I could have been an obnoxious surgeon, but that wouldn’t have made for a very collegial relationship,” said Dr. McCaffrey.

One of the most widely used emotion refocusing techniques is called Quick Coherence® and it was developed by HeartMath. This three-step tool helps to cultivate new heart coherence patterns and emotional responses.

As the simple steps are applied, the body’s functions synchronize to a coherent state, minimizing the experience of stress and allowing for a more intelligent response to the situation. HeartMath stress experts say the key lies in the third step of the technique in recalling positive emotions. Whenever stress buttons are being pushed, the following is useful to help refocus:

The Quick Coherence® Technique

1    Heart focus: Shift your attention to the area of the heart and breathe slowly and deeply.

2    Heart breathing: Keep your focus in the heart by gently breathing – five seconds in and five seconds out – through your heart. Do this two or three times before moving to the next step.

3    Heart feeling: Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Focus on the good heart feeling as you continue to breathe through the area of your heart.

Technologies for Resilience Coaching

There are devices that use heart rhythm feedback to help people measure their emotional state in real-time so users can learn what works when it comes to emotion management. Such devices, when applied with emotion refocusing techniques, allow users to manage stress and gain more control over their well-being.

There are a few technologies like this on the market; however the emWave® is the most widely used. Over 10,000 health professionals around the country use it to help patients that suffer from reoccurring stress and anxiety. The effectiveness of this technology has been documented by independent studies and peer review journals.

While the technology and method have proven successful for everyday stress, it’s also shown to be effective for more extreme stress issues. The U.S. military is now using this same approach with soldiers to help them manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapists have also found the technology to work with children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The take-home message is this: managing stress in a way that truly works – without avoiding it, neglecting it, trying to overpower it, or become a victim of it –begins and ends by focusing on the core of stress patterns: the emotional state. Thanks to science there are now very effective methods that have been developed and proven effective without requiring significant time investments and or major life changes.

from:    http://spiritofmaat.com/magazine/november-2014-the-divine-mother/heartmath-corner%E2%80%8F/