Home Run Life-Rounding 3rd Base on the Way for a Home Run!

If Winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score?” – Vince Lombardi

As we round the corner at third base, the focus shifts to growing results. Every play of the game thus far has included growth. At home plate, it was growth in our spiritual relationship. First base was growth in our character. As you arrive at the third base, it is time to shift the eyes on growing and winning results.

This feels so natural for us, right? After all, we know that improving results at work means promotions, more money, and more respect. Winning results with our health might look like lost pounds, reduced pain, increased strength, more energy and so on. We are results driven world and time are of the essence. We hustle at work, home, and school. We think about goals and efficiency in a way that will take us to the next level.

Have you ever assumed you had it all planned out only for the universe to send you a curve ball? Remember how down straighten you were. What about looking back and thinking I would never have imagined it would end up like this. Sometimes we get in a hurry! We easily become impatient if the outcome isn’t instant. Maybe you feel a calling to do something the opportunities haven’t arrived yet. You desire to restore relationships and things seem to be worse. Despite your best efforts and hard work things just aren’t working out in life. It is time for a reality check: Will you give up on the process or grow up into a productive person? I admit I thought if I worked hard and was a respectable citizen thing would be to harvest, harvest, harvest. When to my surprise I’ve learned that life is plow, plant, harvest, plow, plant, no crop, plow, plant, harvest.

Have you ever felt this impatience with your health? It starts with a little fatigue, a twinge here, a pinch here, hmmm I can not tie my shoes and so on. You may even start to skimp on your self-care. Before you know it, you are down the rabbit hole, and you are stuck with now results of growth in sight. We can get on the path to productivity and results again you have to be committed to real growth that’s not wrapped up in worldly measurements or super-fast timing. We need growth that results in growing the self-care support system.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my tree.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Home Plate – Connection with Spirit
First Base– Character Winning Within Self
Second Base– Community Winning with Others
Third Base: Competence Winning with Results

Are you living the home run life?
Everything starts and ends with our connection to self and our desire to grow.
How are you living these days? The empty life, the unfulfilled life, the frustrating life, the fulfilling life
What is it going to take to move from home plate to first base? Effort and Commitment to Connection, Character, Community, and Competence.

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Get Naked- Love Your Body

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”

― Amy Bloom

Time is highly elastic.  Have you ever asked someone how many hours they work? People on average work 40-65 hours in a week. If they say 75+ hours, they are most likely overestimating and not even realize that they are doing this. We sleep on average 52 hours a week. For me in my current life, there are 168 hours in my week of which I sleep 52 hours, work 65 hours leaving 51 hours for me. Since I am in grad school 40 hours is taken away leaving me 11 hours of my time. Leaving me time to apply my self-care.

Time will stretch to accommodate what we chose to accommodate.  The words “I don’t have time = It is not a priority.”  All of a sudden your water heater broke you would find the seven hours to resolve the problem and all aspects of your life would still work. Proving you could find time to practice your yoga, pilates and to have a walking program. You will accomplish what you prioritize. Is your health a priority? You have goals for your career, relationships, and health. Do you mind your self-care? Is self-care making it on your list? Sit down and take an honest look at your schedule and priorities.

There is nothing rarer, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.

― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Here are five suggestions to look at as they might be thwarting your efforts in reaching the desire of self-care:

1.)    Are you surrounding yourself with martyrs? Take a close look at your circle of co-workers, family, and friends. Are they reaching their self-care goals? Is self-care even on their radar? Or are they taking better care of their jobs, relationships, cars than themselves? Chose to surround yourself with positive, healthy people that are further along the self-care path than yourself so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

2.)    Are you expecting that Rome was built in a day? In the time of expecting immediate gratification,  reality TV shows claiming that it can happen and social media only showing highlight reels of other people’s lives the mind can run away with expectations, judgments, and competition thoughts. Creating a new habit takes time, and there will be moments of irritability, frustration, poor me feelings and guilt for prioritizing your self-care. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing task starts small 10 minutes a day and lead up to a daily practice.

3.)    Do you feel like you don’t deserve self-care? Can I put myself first without being selfish? Feelings of guilt and shame lead to half-hearted attempts and self-sabotage. Self-worth is the issue at heart and, this limiting belief is destructive in your life. If you are feeling frustrated, it is time to seek professional help to make a healthy investment in self-care. The time is now because your health is priceless because without it you cannot accomplish your other desires.

4.)    Are you paying yourself last? Are you trying to fit in your self-care after the to-do-list is done? Is this setting yourself up for success to do your self-care when you are already exhausted? Quality self-care and sitting in front of numbing activities such as TV and Mobile Device are two very different things. Do you think you are spending family time just to find out that everyone is really on an electronic device and not connecting with each other? Try connecting with your self-care be a role model and see if the dynamic of connection changes with your Self and those around you. Schedule some time when you are feeling energetic and can focus on your goal of improving your self-care. You are worth being paid first.

5.)    Are you trying to meet your needs on the sly? You can’t fit your self-care in by not inconveniencing others. Why? Because self-care takes time, money and support to accomplish it. Leave filling silly, guilty and uncomfortable behind and get back the empowerment of your self-care, be a powerful role model for others. Take a stand for your self-care time and put in your planner and your families shared planner, give your family a chance to support you because they do want to see you healthy. In sharing your intention with those that love you, you are creating a robust support system that has the momentum to propel you to reach your goal of health.

The human body is the best work of art.”

― Jess C. Scott

Keeping your self-care on your to-do list is essential, and it is the difference between surviving and thriving.

You were meant to get naked with your time and priorities to RENEW your body, mind, spirit through daily integrative sustainable movement practices and LOVE your body.” Kim Searl

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Understanding Health and Disease through Yoga Concepts II

 I will discuss the meaning of these concepts: Gunas and their relationship to suffering; Prana and the relationship to prana vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis, and sushumna. I will discuss these concepts about classical yoga texts: The Bhagavad Gita (written about 1795 C.E.), The Yoga Sutras (written about 400 C.E.), The Samkhya Karika (written about 2500 B.C.E.), and the Upanishads (written about 800-300 B.C.E.). I will share how these concepts are present in my life. You will also learn how these concepts relate to the understanding of health and disease.

Everyone has the aspects of the three gunas in them. A guna is a quality (specifically the qualities of matter and energy that make up the world). The three gunas are sattva (law, harmony, purity, and goodness), rajas (energy, passion) and tamas (inertia, ignorance).

In the Upanishads (1.9) “Conscious spirit and inanimate matter both have existed since the dawn of time, with maya appearing to connect them, misrepresenting joy as outside us. When all these three are as one, the self-reveals his universal forms and serves as an instrument of the divine will.” (Easwanan, 2007) The appearance that separateness and happiness come from an outside source in the world entangles us through maya. Maya is an essential idea in Vedanta.  Hidden behind the gunas is our true self.  Maya has this phenomenal reality and the appearances, or illusions of a world of separate entities yet the divine power, which creates the world, can be identical with Brahman.

Sutra (I-17, II-18, IV 12-14, and IV 32-34) views the gunas as one of the qualities of nature. The Sutra sees sattva, rajas and tamas as balance, activity, and inertia.   The gunas are constantly intermingling, thus creating prakrti. Nature is here to give experience to the reflected purusa upon our “mind stuff” so you could say that prakrti is the mental mirror of our gunas. The duty of prakrti is to torture our soul with storms of life until the soul renounces the world- sannyasa (abandoning or throwing down). When our soul detaches itself, it is pure, prakrti then stops because it has fulfilled its purpose. Prakrti’s job is to experience purusa to achieve its objective or dharma. Prakrti is present when the gunas are not manifesting separately, when the gunas manifest, prakrti functions with purusa.  Once that job is over, the gunas withdraw their actions from purusa. The force of prana is the three gunas (sattva/tranquility, rajas/activity, tamas/inertia).  When they are in equilibrium, they do not affect matter, but once there is a disturbance, a motion is created in the matter, which gives rise to various forms.

Prakasa means illumination and stands for sattva. Kriya is action and represents rajas. Sthitti is inertia or tamas. The purpose of prakrti is to give us knocks in life.  Prakrti is here to give us experience and ultimately to liberate us from bondage. The secret of our wanting change is in that mind changes. All of life is a short show. If we want to hold it, even for a minute, we have tension. (Satachidananda, 2005)

Samkya looks at the three gunas according to the worldview, which has always been (and continue to be) present in all things and beings in the world. Sattva is goodness, constructive, harmonious, quality of balance, purity, universality, holistic, constructive, creative, building, positive, peaceful and virtuous. Rajas is passion, active, confused, neither good nor bad, sometimes either, self-centeredness, egoistic, individualizing, driven, dynamic and moving. Tamas is vicious, lethargy, violent, imbalance, disorder, chaos, apathy, inertia, ignorant, anxiety, impure, delusion, negative, dull, inactive, darkness, destructive, and chaotic. The qualities of the gunas are present in all of us all the time. The interplay of the gunas defines the character of someone or something as nature determines the progress of life. The force to change comes from raja; sattva empowers towards peaceful and constructive change, and tamas retards the process. (Miller, 2012)

The Bhagavad Gita in chapters fourteen, seventeen and eighteen discuss the gunas as qualities of nature. Guna means “strand” or “fiber” like strands of a rope. The three gunas are woven together to form the objective of the universe. How and what the world made of is philosophically the gunas. From a yoga perspective, it teaches us if we are moving forward in life (sattva), running in place (rajas) and losing our way (tamas). Krishna portrays the gunas as the scope of guna, activities, and teachings that inform us that nothing is free from prakrti and the gunas. When we sharpen our self-observation skills and discernment with practice and the right intention we can learn to witness the activities of the guna employing balance and purpose. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The gunas are present in my life by representing signposts to guide me where I am and where I aspire to be. Raja (attachment) and Dvesa (aversion) seem to be my habitual pattern where I lean hard into pleasurable experiences and lean away from the un-pleasurable. Leaves Prakrti needing to give me some good knocks and bumps to get me moving. While I feel rajas are at the forefront of my personality, it can either create movement toward sattva or tamas. In my forties, I am just getting to a place where I can observe my language cultivate rajas and tamas in service of sattva. The interplay of the gunas in my life seems to be more in the subconscious or outside of my conscious awareness. Nevertheless, as I start to understand the gunas more, and I allow my mind to label what is rajas, tamas or sattva behavior in my external environment, I begin to notice the distinctive qualities. I realize that I have a choice in how I respond and act, allowing me to work on cultivating my gunas. For example, when I am choosing to overwork as a form of self-protection, I can give myself permission to cultivate more tamas to be in service of self-care of stability and rest. When I am choosing to ignore a character issue with someone close to me, I can give myself permission to cultivate more rajas and modify the relationship. When I am choosing to allow my mind to run in habitual thought patterns and making decisions based on yesterday’s dirty dishes or living in the future, I can give myself permission to pause to check in with my breath. Cultivate sattva like a transparent piece of glass.  Allow the light of my conscious awareness to reveal my true nature, creating clarity and elevating my awareness so I can foster new patterns that serve my greater good.

In the context of understanding health and disease, the gunas provide a way for us to observe what could be out of balance, in balance and harmony. If the gunas are, in harmony, we have a loving mind, clarity, bliss, good health, longevity, a surplus of prana and our immunity is high. If sattva is great or we may have receding gums, muscle spasms, gas, constipation, dry skin, low back aches, insomnia, sciatica, feel anxious, insecure, and fearful, have other neurological or mental problems and gives us an irregular metabolism. If rajas is high we may experience intense cravings for sweet, nausea, vomiting; inflammatory conditions start to arise, judgmental and critical toward ourselves and others, hyperacidity, gastritis, hypoglycemia, colitis, diarrhea, dysentery, heartburn, hot flashes, indigestion. A sharp and hyper-metabolism in the body. If our tamas is high, we experience hypo-metabolism, dull, congestion, cough, allergies, nausea, mucoid vomiting, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, lethargy, excessive sleep, weakness of the body with the mental attachment of greed and possessiveness. The gunas control the five koshas.

Prana is our life force. Prana’s relationship to prana vayus is as the life-force “winds” that govern the movement of energy in the pranamaya kosha. Prana’s relationship to chakras (wheel or disk) is like the energy point or doorway to the subtle body. Prana’s relationship to granthis is as energy knots or blocks on our personality where the energy and consciousness interact and manifest.  Prana’s relationship to nadis is as pathways or highways in which prana travels. Prana’s relationship to sushumna is like the central energy channel that travels the full length of the middle of the spinal cord.  Pranic energy (vital life force) flows here as we experience kundalini (latent energy believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine). All of these concepts aid in the constant motion of Prana in the human body and are the energies responsible for the body’s life, heat and maintenance. 

Just as modern science describes two types of nervous systems SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) and the two nervous systems interconnect with every organ of the body.  Pana and consciousness connected to every organ of the body. Energy supplied to the organs comes through the physical and emotional bodies creating channels. Ida nadi represents the mental energy and pingala nadi represents the prana energy while sushumna nadi represents spiritual awareness.

The Upanishads describe Prana as Pra “forth” and Na to breathe “living energy.”  Prana “Vital Energy” the power of life… the underlying substrate of all forms of energy and one of the five kinds of vital energy in living creatures. The five pranas are prana, apana, samana, vyana, and udana. Vyana is responsible for distributing energy throughout the limbs and organs. Udana Ud means “up” And means “breathe” this is an upward moving energy and is responsible for the power governing the rise of spiritual energy or tejas (the subtle essence of fire that governs digestion on both subtle and gross levels). Samana is equalizing and responsible for harmonizing and balancing energy in the body. Apana is active in biologic functions and controls downward energy processes such as elimination and the expenditure of sexual energy. Nadi is a track of prana in a living creature. Pippalada (ancient Indian Vedic sage and philosopher) names the primary polarity prana and rayi (stuff, materials) roughly as consciousness and matter. You could say he wrote a hymn to prana: prana is energy, which fuels evolution, powers the vital processes in all forms of life and ultimately becomes thoughts and desires in the mind where it becomes accessible for us to conserve or redirect. Prana is a comprehensive theory of life, which accounts for everything from health to morality.  Prana Vayu works with the other four vayus to carry out different functions in the body. Apana Vayu dwells in the eye, ear, mouth, and nose and is a downward force of the wind in the organs of sex and excretion. Samana Vayu is an equalizing force in the middle, digests foods and kindles the seven fires. Vyana Vayu distributes energy moving through a myriad of vital currents radiating from the heart where it lives at the time of death through the subtle track that runs up the spinal channel. Udana Vayu leads the selfless up the long ladder of evolution, and it leads the selfish down, but those that are both selfless and selfish come back to this Earth. (Easwaran, 2007)

The Sutra (1-34) looks at prana as vital energy and the dualities of prana and apana the ascending and descending energy within the human body. The force that moves upward is prana, the force that moves downward is apana, and the aim is to bring them together in equilibrium just as Hatha yoga is two forces (sun and moon) to gentle establish peace in mind, the two opposites must blend. Regulate and watch the breath because where the mind goes the prana follows. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The Bhagavad Gita (6:13, 15:1, 15:14) views prana as the vital energy.  Prana and apana are the life currents within, and as such, is the digestive fire. Krishna said earlier in the Gita that “The fire is me; the offering into the fire is myself; the one who accepts the offering is myself; the offer also is myself. It is all ultimately myself. So I am playing all the parts.” He appears to multiply himself into all of us. The Chakras are subtle nerve centers along the spine which when concentrated upon yield experiences of various levels of consciousness. The nadis are subtle nerves, and the sushumna is one of the major nadis or subtle nerves. The Gita gives us a suggestion of spinal alignment and gaze; it says that the flow of energy should be easy through the spine along the Ida, pingala and sushumna as these nadis are important since they pass through all the chakras. If we work on our posture, we will find our center of gravity allowing the whole body to be very still. When this energy is flowing, and we are focused on the center of the head, in the location where the king and queen glands are (pituitary and pineal), the location of the seat of consciousness it allows our intuition to flow. (Satchidananda, 2005)

Samkhya (XXIX), the standard function of the three internal organs, is the five vital airs: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. Prana resides inside the mouth and nose; its circulation is the common function of all the thirteen organs since the organs come into being when there is prana. Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawra describes prana as a bird in a cage, giving motion to all, it breathes. Apana takes away, and its circulation is the common function of the organs. Samana resides in the center of the body; it distributes food and rest properly. Udana carries up, draws or lifts energy.  It lies between the navel and the head, and the circulation it provides is a common function of all the organs. Vyana is that which pervades the body and divides its interior-like space. Its circulation is a common function of all the organs. The five vayus offer circulation to the organs; this is why you see it explained as the common functions of all organs. (Bawra, 2012)

I am not sure where I heard this analogy before but I think it is exquisite and describes the vayus eloquently. Sun is the prana of the universe and rises to bring light to our eyes. The Earth draws the lower fire of apana. The space between sun and earth is samana. The moving air is vyana; fire is udana – when this fire goes out the senses draw into the mind, and rebirth happens.

The concepts of prana in relationship to the vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis, and sushumna, are present in my life as the vayus can act as a mirror if I take the time to check in with my breath, it can lead to information about what is happening in my chakras, granthis, and nadis. Being able to have my vayus flowing allows my charkas to be open and determines how I will grow and evolve as a human being. Do I want to create more shakti in my life? The more that I learn to work with my vayus and chakras the more my emotional and physical harmony will come into unity with the universe. The granthi’s and I have a love-hate relationship, to say the least. Many times I want to be tamas with them and ignore them, but I am learning to honor the information and work with them, especially the Brahma Granthi (located at the base of the spine between Muladhara and Svadhisthana chakra). The primitive brain lives here. When I am feeling fear, anxiety about basic survival needs of shelter and food, overworking, etc., this is telling me that I lack grounding, and my fears are preventing me from reaching my greater good. Vishnu Granthi (located between Manipura and Anahata chakra) is where ego and power live. Clinging to something, fear of feeling ignored or losing power and possessions is telling me I am not exercising my “letting go” muscle. I need to be more vulnerable and to put my facade aside and challenge the status quo. Rudra Granthi (located between Anhata and Ajna chakra) is difficult for me; it brings up a level of vulnerability that I leave me uncomfortable. I love to serve others to the point I have to remind myself I do not need to fix anything, and I need to be mindful of not imposing my will on them. Also, when I am performing my seva actions at the homeless shelter or raising awareness around human trafficking, I have to remind myself to bring light to these dark subjects since we are not separate from them. I could easily have been (or could be) part of this darkness. I ask others and myself these questions: Would you want to be treated how we treat homeless people? Would you want your loved ones treated how we treat those rescued from human trafficking? When you look away would you want someone to look away from you? I usually get silence with no acknowledgment, to which I ask the questions again.  Then, in dead silence that I let linger, I express that this veil of separation lifted, and we do this by healing ourselves and choosing to live a full life. 

The concepts of prana in relationship to vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis and sushumna are understood (in health and disease assessment) by noticing which chakras appear to be closed or struggling.  We look to these concepts to identify possible diseases rooted within them.  In the Muladhara chakra, we can see such diseases as addiction/addictive behavior, anorexia, colitis, constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, glaucoma, hemorrhoids, hypertension, impotence, kidney stones, knee problems, and weight gain. In the Swadhisthana chakra, we see such diseases as a testicular disease, prostatic disease, pre-menstrual syndrome, muscle cramps, menstrual problems, kidney complications, irritable bowel syndrome, fibroids, fertility issues, and endometriosis, cystitis, and bladder issues. In the Manipura chakra, we see such diseases as food allergies, coeliac disease, diabetes, digestive problems, gallstones, hepatitis, liver disease, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, stomach problems, and ulcers. In the Anahata chakra, we see such conditions as immune disorders, heart diseases, fatigue, and circulation, breast cancer, high blood pressure, and allergies. In the Vissudha chakra, we see such diseases as asthma, bronchitis, ear infections, hearing problems, lost voice, mouth ulcers, sore throats, teeth and gums, thyroid problems, tinnitus, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and upper digestive tract. In the Ajna chakra, we see such diseases as visual defects, tension headache, shortsightedness, migraines, long-sightedness, insomnia, deafness, catarrh, cataracts, brain tumor, and blindness. In Saharara chakra, we see diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, dizziness, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and senile dementia.  Self-study through the chakras, gunas, and vayus, can help us prevent and delay some of these former disease states.

If the gunas control the five koshas then the vayus point to the energy of the chakras.  Tamas primarily affects the chakras Muladhara and Swadhisthana. Rajas primarily affect the chakra Manipura. Sattva primarily affects Ajna and Sahasrara. Rajas and Sattva together primarily affect the chakras Anahata and Vissudha. (Judith, 2015) While Vyana Vayu pervades the whole body, you can find it mainly in Swadisthana chakra.  You find udana vayu primarily in the Vishuddha chakra, prana vayu primarily in Anahata chakra, samana vayu mostly in Manipura chakra and apana vayu in Muladhara charka.  Vyana vayu is associated with the nadis and the two primary nadis of ida and pingala intertwine the length of the body, passing around and through the chakras until they reach the base of the spine (the entrance to the main nadi of sushumna). Their intertwining generates the energy of the swirling charkas. (Keller, 2015) While yoga is not a cure all for these diseases and does not fix someone, it can add in delaying or alleviating symptoms for these disease states. Our body does speak our mind, and we can choose to heal or not, the yoga lifestyle is a wonderful compliment to anyone’s life at any stage of health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Bawra, B. V. (2012). Samkhya Karika with Gaudapadacarya Bhasya. USA: Brahmrishi Yoga Publications.

 

Easwaran, E. (2007). The Upanishads (2nd ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.

 

Judith, A., Ph.D. (2015). Wheels of life: The classic guide to the chakra system (2nd ed.). Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

 

Keller, D. (2015). Refining the Breath: Pranayama: The Art of the Awakened Breath. South Riding, VA: Do Yoga Productions.

 

Miller, B. S. (2004). The Bhagavad-Gita Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

 

Miller, R. (2012). The Sankhya Karika: A New Translation.

 

Satchidananda, S. S. (2005). The Living Gita: The complete Bhagavad Gita: A commentary for modern readers (6th ed.). Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

 

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Understanding Health and Disease through Yoga Concepts I

 I will discuss the meaning of these six concepts: Nature of Self, Dharma, Path of Yoga, Causes of Suffering, Samskaras, and Kleshas. I will explain these concepts concerning these classical yoga texts: The Bhagavad Gita (written about 1795 C.E.), The Yoga Sutras (written about 400 C.E.), The Samkhya Karika (written about 2500 B.C.E.), and the Upanishads (written about 800-300 B.C.E.). I will share how these concepts are present in my life. You will also learn how these concepts relate to the understanding of health and disease.

            Nature of Self in the west, we think of as a person’s particular personality, the qualities that make them unique. The Upanishads refer to this as Atman “the self”, and they distinguish it from the individual character. The Upanishads are known as their equation “the Self is Brahman” pointing to the unity of pure consciousness. Upanishads means “secret teaching” and is the beginning of profound conjectural thought. Who Am I? The real self is unchanging, so it continues throughout all process of change. It cannot be the physical body because the body changes throughout our life and dies.  It cannot be the mind because it is always evolving. It cannot be social identity and the roles it plays. No, consciousness itself is subjective, experiential, and seamless, it lacks distinctions and boundaries, not subject to change, have no ending or beginning; it is the one true self.  All creatures are the same, and it is not an object. In the west we focus on the objective and disregard the subjective or physical and mental – we view them as separate systems. In the east body/ mind are seen as an integrated system that includes the senses (hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, smelling), perceptions, thoughts, organs of actions (speaking, grasping, walking, excreting, procreating). The pure self (the unchanging self) is Atman, eternal and indestructible. How do we get to know this person?  We seek to understand it through self-study and pure awareness, the unified power underlying all things, our universal self – known as Brahman. Therefore, you might ask what the relationship between Atman and Brahman is. Upanishads say they are identical that the self at the core of existence, pure consciousness is the very ground of the universe itself – in the west we mistake this as “I Am God.” The world spun out of Brahman – the human soul is Brahman. (Easwaran, 2007)

 Sankhya Karika views the nature of self as spirit. Sankhya means the number or perfect knowledge, considered as a realistic theory, and represents the method. Yoga represents the application or the practical aspects. It looks at the nature of self as a dualistic Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti is the first and ultimate cause of all gross and subtle objects. The non-self has the three gunas: Sattva (happiness, pure, light, brightness, and essence), Rajas (action, motion, objects, restlessness, pain, dust) and Tamas (ignorance, inaction, coarseness, negligence, indifference, insensitivity, darkness). Prakriti is not produced but has an inherent nature to create matter. Purusha is the material cause of Prakriti. Purusha is the supreme spirit (neither produced nor produces), it is the transcendental self non-attributive consciousness. A person or Purusha are unchangeable, inactive, conscious entities that gain something from contact with nature. (Miller, 2012)

The Yoga Sutra views the nature of self as the seer (1.3). Self-realization transcends the mind.  We experience pure consciousness. We are separate from the Prakriti (seen) and Purusha (seer).  Asmita is false identification.  We confuse the nature of the seer or self with the nature of perception. It is when we mistake the mind, body or senses for the real self. When we identify with parts of the self that change instead of the quiet place within us, that does not alter we are practicing Asmita. Who we are at our core is unchanging. Known as the seer or purusha who sees the world through the lens of the mind. The mind includes our thoughts, emotions, sensory input from our body and is the instrument of perception the seer uses to engage with the world around you. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            This concept is present in my life because I have experienced my body as a vehicle and my soul as a driver. When I had an accident, and my body did not work, I had to explore the consciousness as it spread through the body. As I laid in a hospital bed for months on end, I was given time to reflect on the respect for life, shared values, tolerance, patience, compassion for others. Who am I? What is my real identity? What is it that changes and what does not modify?  The nature of self-understood in the context of understanding health and disease by recognizing that when we identify too closely with the changeable aspects of our identity we create disease in our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies affecting the Anadamayakosha (bliss body). It affects our true self/purusa. It does not effect by our physical sensations, energetic fluctuations, mental and emotional upheavals or intuitive blockages. Meditation and Yoga nidra are tools that we can use to help balance this area.

The Bhagavad Gita lays out a four-path journey that we can follow toward self -realization.  The four paths are meditation (deeper states of awareness), knowledge (intellectual/ scriptural), action (practiced with total involvement and detachment from results) and devotion (divine in some form) (Satchidananda, 2005)

 Westerners do not seem to know the word Dharma, and it comes up very little in daily conversations. The Upanishads do not offer a single comprehensive system of thought, but they do provide a metaphysical scheme or principals such as samsara, karma, dharma, and moksha. Dharma is the truth, the universal principle of law, order and harmony, all those things and pure reality. You may see it written as right behavior or duty or social obligation or as a particular set of responsibilities performed tino the best of our abilities. There is no higher dharma than non-violence. (Easwaran, 2007)

 Samkhya Karika looks at Dharma as jiva, the individual soul influenced or functioning under an influence of dharma and Prakriti. They view dharma as a virtue. Virtue and vice are one of the eight pairs of disposition discussed. When we increase dharma we have sattva, however, we do not gain perfection and emancipation from practicing virtue or dharma. We gain a divine place in which to reside. (Bawra, 2012)

            If you do a quick google search, you might see dharma described as “that that upholds supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe”. The Yoga Sutra’s (4.29) talk about dharma as our duty, righteousness, and moral obligations.  Our world is woven together by countless interdependent strands that make up our universal whole. Dharma is the original cosmic order that sustains this web.  Therefore, we should do our part and know in our daily life and public life if the help we are seeking is the right kind of help or not. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Dharma is the first word in the Bhagavad Gita (3.35) when they come upon “the field of dharma” worrying that war will lead to a violation of dharma and permanent residence in hell. One’s duties must be performed for our dharma and not neglect it in the name of dharma. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We must protect the principals of dharma. Dharma is the “law of the universe”, “social and religious rules”, and our “own individual mission or purpose”. We cannot escape our dharma; we must fulfill it. Dharma is grounded in the proper use, and we cannot throw caution to the wind.  If we provide for others with whom we live amongst, we must still be mindful of the effects of our actions on those around us. In other words, you cannot leave the loved ones you support to go to perform Svadharma. Your individual duty comes naturally for you, and you can start making steps toward finding a balance.  Dharma also implies benefits to others.  There is no personal desire behind it. Svadharma can change over the years, but it flows smoothly, one into the other even without your knowledge or planning new things to come. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Dharma is present in my life right now in a big way. I had an unplanned change that rocked my world that made me pause and question everything in my life.  Was I in disharmony and how? I have spent the last year getting down to the root of my soul’s dharma, my duty dharma as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, business owner, and mentor. I have developed a dharma code that helps me stay grounded in and to focus my energy. Here is my dharma code: I play often! I live creatively! My life and work are full of love that moves people to heal; I am light in a dark world. I am centered, adventurous, and courageous, so the joy of Integrative Sustainable Movement can grow. I ask myself how my Dharma can benefit the most people. I often play with my spouse and friends. I tend to my creative side through painting, art journaling, blowing glass. I play in nature with my dog, meditate at the beach and walk in the woods. I have a Seva practice for my business and myself. In teaching others about yoga principals and concepts and learning corrective exercise through mind/body modalities, I am serving the community in which I live, giving it meaning and purpose beyond a selfish existence, and it nourishes my soul daily. Dharma applied in the context of understanding health and disease.  Dharma interpreted as by living in disharmony with your dharma, you are starting a chain reaction of disharmony feeding out from your family to community, nation and universe in the physical, spiritual and emotional bodies. There is so much unhappiness in the world I cannot help but wonder if we learned to use the word dharma in our daily conversations, would there be more peace. Our western nation defines success as doing things individually. Westerners need to understand the aspect of the dharma of self-expression as someone who is primarily on a spiritual journey and the following truth ethically. If we do our work in Dharma in agreement with our greater good, we will support our families, our professions, our communities, our nations and the entire universe peacefully. Dharma is in line with the Manomayakosha (mental/ emotional body).  Our thoughts, feelings, opinions, judgments, memories, reactions and psychological disorders are affected at this kosha level. We have tools of Mudra, Yoga nidra, mindful practice, and journaling to assist in healing.

            The path of yoga: Karma (way of action), Jnana (way of knowledge), and Bhakti (way of devotion) from the Upanishads perspective they introduce Karma yoga (actions, deeds, words) as a principal of cause and effect based on the measures. The Upanishads also talk about the importance of doing good deeds from the perspective of Karmic Law (past lives and freedom). Jnana yoga of knowledge is unyielding in the Upanishads. The yoga of the philosopher liberates us from impurities of human existences, namely egoism, desire-ridden actions and illusions we are different from the rest of the world. In the Upanishads, they discuss Bhakti yoga of devotion as personal theism and the doctrine of grace – personal god choices; however, it is stronger in the Bhagavad Gita than the Upanishads. (Easwaran, 2007)

            Karma (2:11, 3:5, and 4:19) is one of the three paths to realization. It is part of nature Prakriti and the most active way to lead a spiritual life. In the Bhagavad Gita, Karma seems to be a law that functions by itself with no external control. One struggles alone against its drive to attain better incarnations from one existence to the next. Dharma and Karma is a pair of forces in everyone’s (anyone’s) life. Dharma/Duty and Karma/Global is the nature of Prakriti, the way the three gunas influence one’s mind under the effect of past Karma. Think of past Karma or lives like a card game… you need sound cards dealt on the first hand to play well and win (ninety- nine percent good karma one percent skill). We can only perform actions in harmony with dharma. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Jnana (2:39, 3:3, and 13:24) consists of the mind, the body, the atman or self. Purification of the body and the mind through self-discipline, acquiring a genuine awareness of the world around the supreme self beyond the knowledge of Sat (Truth) and Asat (falsehood),  practicing various disciplines and other techniques as a means to self-purification and elevation and elimination of thought process. The Bhagavad Gita is most concerned with one’s attitude when performing social duties. The purpose Jnana achieved liberation by realizing our true nature, overcoming our ignorance, and transcending our limited selves are usually sense dependent and bound by karma. The benefits of practicing Jnana are equanimity of mind through control of the senses, desires and mental discipline, detachment, impassion, and sacrifice. Knowledge obtained through the study of scripture, contemplation, intuition, service to God and teachers, divine grace, discussion, teaching, observation, and personal spiritual experience. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Bhakti (12:1-12:20) is the path of goodwill and talked about in chapter twelve of the Bhagavad Gita as love.  Innocence and pure intentions are the most powerful forces in a devotee’s spiritual life. With universal love, chanting and devotion, we can with love in the heart see beyond faults and judgments that often muddy our views of relationships with others and ourselves. Relationships that have gone sour rescued by returning to it with love in the heart. The Bhagavad Gita is divided into three parts and proclaims that these three sections are the teachings of Jnana, Karma and Bhakti respectively.  (Satchidananda, 2005)

            From this perspective, the Sutra Karma (II-2, IV-7) is performing actions as selfless service without attachment to the results. There are three kinds of actions white (good, useful), black (bad, not useful) and mixed (shades of gray). Buddhi discriminates between these. Our actions stem from the root impressions of Samskaras.

            Jnana (I-48, IV-19) is the yoga of self-inquiry, path of knowledge, wisdom, and introspection, deep exploration of nature, exploring and setting aside false identities.  Bhakti (I-23, II-45) is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, service to others/God and all actions performed in context to the divine. It is important we do not avoid or abandon others while on this path. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            The Samkhya Karika perspective of Jnana refers to Samkhya (the school of philosophy). Karma represents the teachings of Patanjali, and he followed Samkhya as the most important.  Bhakti symbolizes Vedanta teachings/Vedavyasa, and he followed Patanjali. All three of these are part of Vaidika Darsanas. The Samkhya philosophy has Purusa (consciousness) it does not mutate and is conscious.  Prakriti (matter) mutates and is inert. These two, Purusa and Prakriti, are synergy and union of two and found in humans, animals, plants and microscopic organisms. Conciseness brings life to matter while matter provides consciousness a medium to exist within and discover its potential. (Miller, 2012)

            Jnana is “to connect” with the difference between Purusa and Prakriti.  The union between matter and consciousness exists for two reasons Bhoga (enjoyment) and Apavarga (liberation). Bhoga represented material potential and construct of matter. Apavarga is spiritual evolution, the state of intuitive clarity. The door is open to which option we want to pursue and for either path or door to work, both bohoga and apavarga must be present. Therefore, no matter our path, karma is defined by our actions. Yoga went a step further from Samkhya, it introduced and insisted on the idea of a supreme principle – Isvara. Knowledge gained in Jnana expresses itself in daily actions in Karma and the practical aspects of Samkhya connect us to our actions.  Bhakti is connected through devotion to both schools of Samkhya and Patanjali and must come from a divine source. Individual consciousness also is known as Brahma (the journey of each is to integrate with this divine ocean of consciousness) it is every consciousness and the final destination. Serve this divine consciousness with love and devotion. (Miller, 2012)

            I like Dr. Kausthub Desikachar’s analogy: River separates itself from earth at its origin represents Samkhya or Jnana Yoga and talks about the distinctions between purusa and prakrti. River moves along its journey and encounters life through cities, mountains, valleys, and other exotic places represent the mirroring of Karma yoga or Patanjali’s integrating knowledge into actions of daily life. The river joins the ocean, merges into a giant body of water that connects all rivers around the world represents Vedanta or Bhakti yoga related to the divine and cradled by supreme consciousness.

            The path of yoga is present in my life, as it has helped me find a new level of health. Every year that I practice, my yoga looks different. However, I seem to have found a new degree of health that I did not know existed. My knowledge of my inner self grows, and it changes my actions towards myself first and then ripples out to other beings. Yoga has helped me discover my spirituality and a means in which to create harmony between my three bodies. It is not always comfortable, but it is always there for me without fail. The path of yoga concept can help us understand health and disease by helping us live a healthy lifestyle in all three bodies (physical, emotional and spiritual) for when we are in conflict with these bodies it causes sickness, pain, suffering, and violence. If we are living a lifestyle that is in harmony, we have good health. The Vijnanamaya Kosha (wisdom body) affects health our balance of wisdom, intuitive, experiences and truth. Again, we have tools such as Yoga nidra, chanting, and meditation to affect our wisdom body.

Causes of Suffering: Ego, Mind, Devolution (Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas, Senses) when we identify too closely with the changeable aspects of our identity we create suffering. The Upanishads believe if the organs are used for selfish use suffering happens. If desires are the cause of selfish actions, then we are vulnerable to suffering as the same dualities of opposites cause pleasure and pain. Rising above both of these, a battle is fought in the mind and the body. The mind is the seat of all desire and intentions, therefore, the mind is the human battlefield. Karma founded in suffering as ignorance launches Karma into action that causes suffering. Suffering is part of an eternal cosmic cycle. (Easwaran, 2007)

The Bhagavad Gita (1:30, 2:7, 2:13, 4:21, and 4:34) looks at suffering as instability in the mind or defines mental instability as the chief cause of suffering. Mental instability is rooted in desire. Our outgoing nature and dependence on things are how we experience suffering from this state of duality. Suffering is what arises from our ignorance and desire riddled actions.

Freedom suffering lies in achieving freedom through self-restraint, mental stability, detachment, renunciation and absence of desires. The Bhagavad Gita looks at it in three ways: mistaken identity, attachment/involvements and lack of knowledge. Mistaken identity, death, decay, anxiety, fear… lord Krishna teaches that we are not mere body and mind but true self which is eternal. Attachments and involvements – Arjuna suffered because he developed an attachment to family, friends and relations. Our first attachments are to ourselves (what we are, what we have, what we think and do, our likes/dislikes, actions, and reactions, opinions and decisions, dreams and desires, fears and concerns, vices and greed, anger, selfishness, pride and envy). Lack of knowledge influenced through thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, desires and attitudes, which result in good/bad and leading to happiness/unhappiness and success/failure. When we do not have the right knowledge, we suffer from indecision, doubt, confusion, and rationalization.  Part of Arjuna’s egoistic thinking caused suffering. He believed in what he saw and could not think beyond it. We suffer due to lack of knowledge, identification with false selves, attachments to outside worlds and dependence upon senses for knowledge and activities. The Bhagavad Gita suggests through faith and devotion to God and by cultivating equanimity of mind through detachment, by practicing yoga and meditation, we will find that physical and mental discipline will free us from suffering. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The Sutra (1.5) Patanjali talks about the five causes of suffering. He defines them as ignorance of who we really are; egoism (the labels and titles in our life define who we are); attachment (our need to cling to what brings us pleasure); resistance of what we do not want/denial; fear of death (the safety nets we create on a physical and emotional level). He does not divide these into painful/or not as they are the same cause. (Satchidananda, 2005)

Samkhya views suffering as how much we get caught up in the pyscho-mental illusions of prakriti, rajas, and tamas. In the physical body and emotional body.  The proximity of the two great Samkhya systems (purusa-prakriti) postulates that there is a confusion of understanding in the human mind of what is conscious and what is not. The confusion leads to suffering. Samkhya propounds the quest for knowledge of the essential nature of purusa-prakriti and understanding the fundamental difference between the two is the means to have freedom from suffering. (Miller, 2012)

The causes of suffering are present in my life in a very tangible way. While I understand, I determine how much suffering I want to endure; I still struggle to let go. I struggle with the importance of life, the attachment to my loved ones, delusions, and ignorance to which I do not know yet, rajas and tamas influence my thinking, lack of holding strong boundaries and lack of faith in trusting my journey. The more I practice my yoga lifestyle, the more I can become the observer of my patterns and to clear the patterns that are not serving me.  The goal is for my subconscious to leave room for me to create new healthy patterns that serve my greater good.  The causes of suffering  understood in the context of understanding health and disease by shining light onto the root of the system that is out of balance.

Samskaras are patterns whether positive or negative (such as low self-esteem, self-destructive relationships, etc.). Samskaras comes from the Sanskrit sam “complete or joined” and Kara “action, cause or doing”. They are individual impressions, ideas, and actions.  Repeating them creates a groove and which are difficult to resist like fissures in our brain. Samskaras is universal and defines human beings. We are creators of habit – physically and emotionally. The Sutra 11.16 “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” I have seen anywhere from one to forty different Samskaras.  If we practice intention/Sankalpa, intensity/Tapas, slowing/Shani, awareness/Vidya, fearlessness/Abhaya, vision/Darshana, and practice/Abhyasa we can clear negative Samskaras. The Upanishads mention Samskaras as a means to grow and prosper in all four aspects of human desires Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Karma/Kama (work and pleasure) and Moksha (salvation).  (Easwaran, 2007) Samskaras imbedded in the subconscious mind; the neurons that fire together stay together. Neural pathways get stronger and so does our automatic responses in our mind and body creating prolonged suffering such as (anxiety, anger, depression, pain). Through Svadyaya ( a study of self), we can become aware of our cycles and develop Maitri-Karuna (love, kindness, and compassion). We can have the courage to strengthen and move in other directions. For when we change by making a conscious effort and reverse the patterns of Samskaras, we free ourselves from suffering.

The Sutra (1.2, 1.50, and 4.9-4.10) suggests that we can control Samskaras thoughts about truth, thoughts based on incorrect perception, thoughts which have no basis in reality (a wild imagination, dream/sleep state of the mind), and memories. The sutra includes cognitive behavior therapy, psychotherapy, mindfulness and compassion within it. (Satchidananda, 2005)

As the samkaras change, we change at the deepest level, changing our neuron net. The cycle of Karma is such: Action – (karma) > Impressions – imprint in subconscious (samskara) > Tendency – mental urges, desires, feelings (vasana) > Thought Pattern – attitudes mental disposition (vritti) > Action – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, thinking (karma). Samskaras affect the Manomayakosha (mental/ emotional body) through our habitual patterns of thoughts and emotions.

I use, face and replace, mantra, chanting, transcendental meditation in the theta brainwave state to help me overcome negative samskaras. I use my Sankalpa practice, intentions, and tapas to be more mindful of staying in the present moment helping me to create positive samskaras.  Samskaras  understood in the context of understanding health and disease by moving through the Pranamayakosha.  This system feeds every organ and system in the body that is responsible for homeostasis. Samskaras can affect these subtle energy centers causing our organ and systems to create diseases in the emotional body.  There may be a feedback loop of “I am not enough” “I do not have a value” and this eventually shows up in the physical body through chronic tension and pain, postural deviations leading to muscle imbalances.

Kleshas are afflictions, mental factors that produce states of torment both immediately and in the long-term. The five main kleshas, which referred to as poisons are Attachment, Aversion, Ignorance, Pride, and Jealousy.  First, we must acknowledge the klesha is there. We do this through reflection promoting self-awareness, self-understanding and self-knowledge to uncover the klesha. The klesha can overcome through meditation, tapas and seeking wisdom to burn away the impurities of the mind ridding the klesha so we can see clearly and the reality of the world and true nature can be present.

In the Sutra (2.3-2.11, 11.3) it talks about Avidya/Ignorance – mistaking impermanent for permanent, Asmita/Ego “I am- ness” – the labels and judgments that we make, Raga/Attachment – to or desires, Dvesha/Aversion – new ground we are out of our comfort zone, Abhinivesha/ Clinging to live, fear and love of material life. The last four mentioned (ego, attachment, aversion, clinging to life) spring out of the first one mentioned (ignorance). All of our obstacles are tied to our fear and ignorance. (Satchidananda, 2005) The Samkhya talks about knowing the real nature of the universe and that our main afflictions we suffer with are ignorance, confusion, and misperceptions. (Miller, 2012)

The Kleshas are present in my life as I struggle with fear, depression and desires. These mental states muddy the mind and through my yoga practice, I have been able to cut down my talk therapy bills and clear my mind. The Kleshas are understood in the context of understanding health and disease by looking at the emotional root-cause in the subconscious brain. For example, Dr. Loyd has traced it back to three inhibitors (un-forgiveness, harmful actions, and unhealthy beliefs) and the nine virtues (love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, trust, humility, self-control, peace).  I appreciate Dr. Loyd’s work on The Healing Codes.  He has traced disease states back to an emotional root causes (this does not mean that we chuck our western medicine out the door). The Center for Disease Control estimates that 80% of all health care dollars are spent on illness related to stress.  Dr. Loyd suggests that we ask the question “What stress is causing this problem and how can I eliminate it?” The healing codes help heal the body by removing the stress from the body through the neuro-immune system. It is a mudra, transcendental meditation technique held in various parts of the body (third eye chakra, temple, throat chakra and jaw). In knowing our root causes of suffering and the virtues we struggle with we can create healing through self-awareness.

References

Bawra, B. V. (2012). Samkhya Karika with Gaudapadacarya Bhasya. USA: Brahmrishi Yoga Publications.

 

Easwaran, E. (2007). The Upanishads (2nd ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.

 

Miller, B. S. (2004). The Bhagavad-Gita Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

 

Miller, R. (2012). The Sankhya Karika: A New Translation.

 

Satchidananda, S. S. (2005). The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita: A commentary for modern readers (6th ed.). Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

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