You have heard of the IDES of MARCH. But what if every day was full of IDLENESS in MARCH?
Posted by Ken on Mon Feb 24 2014

 

RELAX

 

As we head into springtime, I ponder.....

How is it that we were born into a culture that promotes constant DOING but frowns upon just BEING?

 

“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”― George MacDonald

 

 

When I heard about the term SACRED IDLENESS coined by George MacDonald back in the late 1800’s, I became curious about what statistics are out there regarding the USA’s work habits.  

Sadly, I was not surprised to find out that we rank as the NUMBER ONE OVERWORKED DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

Old MacDonald would give that a big old ‘E-I-E-I-NOOOO!” It took a lot to get to this point – more than I can cover in a blog entry, certainly.  But we can benefit from a few minutes contemplating sacred idleness.

 

The Dalai Lama said, “world peace begins with inner peace.”  If this is true, then an individual’s sacred idleness could be the first step in a better world. Think about that:  something you do for your own healing could end up healing the whole world!

 

Down time to recharge and refresh is a crucial part in maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual health in an increasingly busy and chaotic society. I mean, how long can you use your smart phone before it needs recharged?    How long can a car go before it needs to be refueled?   Are we humans any different from those mechanical things that we so diligently invented in the hopes that we could have more down time?  I’d dare say we’re only different in one big way:  our energy source is within.  We recharge with inner connection and peace. 

 

 According to WebMD, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and asthma are just four of many ailments that have a stress component to them.   In other words, we can greatly improve the overall quality of our lives through reducing the amount of stress we hold in our bodies.  And how do we do that?  By creating more sacred down time in our lives, of course!

 

“Man surprised me most about humanity.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
 Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

~The Dalai Lama

 

Check out this scientific article on proven health benefits of down time.    I just love it when modern science backs up what the ancients figured out long ago.  It’s plain and simple: our brains and bodies require a certain amount of downtime to stay healthy.  Easier said than done, of course.  It can be especially difficult to get started with a practice of sacred idleness. 

 

Here’s a LITTLE BUDDHA article with 3 steps towards doing just that!    

 

I truly believe that each of us will come to sacred idleness in our own time in our own way.  Each of us has to reach that place in our lives when we realize we can do something to improve the situation.   I know through my stressful experiences as a front line social worker that I was able to ignore a lot of physical symptoms of stress for a long time before it got the best of me.   That is when I found yoga and meditation about 10 years ago.   The discipline of a regular practice of any kind (even sitting quietly for 10 minutes a day works grand for some!) has such wonderful benefits. 

 

The more you build a practice, the richer the benefits.  And while the benefits are golden, the practice doesn’t have to cost you much at all!

 

One of my all time favorite ways to practice idleness is FLOATING!  I set aside time to go deep within. Let me tell you, what comes up is WAAAAAY more interesting than any TV show or movie than I could ever watch.  We forget just how much is inside – that there’s as much infinity inside us as outside. The inner world of each of us holds so much wisdom and energy!  It can help us deal with all of the stress that modern society dumps upon us.  Whether you take a walk in nature, or sip on a cup of tea, or treat yourself to a candlelit bath, I hope there are many sacred moments in your upcoming days that serve you along your journey!   


I remembered the parable I heard about the secret of life that goes something like this….

 

There was once an argument among the gods over where to hide the secret of life so that men and women would not find it.

One god said: “Bury it under a mountain; they will never look there.”

“No,” the others said, “one day they will find ways to dig up mountains and will uncover it."

Another said: “Sink it in the depths of the ocean; it will be safe there.”

“No,” the others objected, “humans will one day find a way to plumb the ocean's depths and find it easily.”

Finally another said: “Put it inside them; men and women will never think of looking for it there for a long time. By the time they are intelligent enough to discover the secret, perhaps they will also be wise enough to use it properly.”

 

 

The benefits of creating Sacred Idleness in your life are many.  And I hope you have a wonderful time exploring your authentic self through whatever rituals or practices you develop in your Journey.   And if you should need some assistance in establishing them, I am only a call or email away!

 

Idly yours,

Ken

sloth


What is the opposite of jealousy and how do you cultivate it?
Posted by Ken on Wed Jan 22 2014

                                                           compersion

Did you notice the transformation in most retail store displays back in December from red and green to red… and more red?  In February we are not so subtly reminded of Valentines Day and encouraged to purchase chocolates, roses, or a teddy bear for a loved one.  Sometimes that teddy bear or edible underwear distracts us from an essential fact:  expressing love for another is a beautiful part of being human and there are so many ways to do it.  It does not require a special day or any particular reason to do it.  


Now, I would like to do a little shadow work by exploring the concept of jealousy.  Anyone who has felt love for another person has most likely experienced jealousy.  It can arise from insecurities, misunderstandings and cognitive distortions. Sometimes a minor bout of jealousy may awaken a sense of wanting to be closer to another person or deepen one’s understanding of the relationship. Jealousy, like fear, can be an instinctual response to a perceived threat. But, as with fear, if this Green-eyed Monster gets too powerful or shows up too frequently, there can be trouble for both the individual as well as the relationship.

 

So, now the first question is…What is the opposite of jealousy?

And the second question is…..How do we cultivate this emotional state?

 

The answer to the first question is:

The opposite of jealousy is Compersion
Another way of thinking of the opposite of jealousy is with the Buddhist concept of Sympathetic Joy or Mudita

                                                                           how to cultivate compersion

Every person reading this has experienced this emotional state at some point in his/her life.  If you’ve ever felt an instinctual “I am so happy for you!” on hearing about another’s good fortune, you know compersion.  If your heart has ever leapt for joy when that suffering friend finally catches a break, then you’ve felt mudita.  Our heart is excited to hear the news that someone we care about is celebrating something and as a result, we can celebrate it too. Compersion is as natural – and human – as jealousy. 

 

But like most virtues, it deepens when we cultivate and practice it.   Noticing when our own basic needs or wants are not met can be a first step.  If we are not content with the way things are in our own lives, then it can be very challenging to extend heartfelt compersion to others. 

 

Similarly, if we are constantly thinking that the only way to get our needs met is by serving ourselves and not others, then tapping into sympathetic joy can be difficult.   This is why volunteering or helping others can be part of developing one’s ability to feel compersion.   As in the Prayer of St. Francis (although historians seem to doubt that St. Francis wrote this back in the 13th Century):

 

“Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive…”

 

This prose gives us insight into ways to focus our energies on other’s well being so that it also has a positive impact on ourselves.   It’s more than an idea that kindness is in our self-interest; believing in abundance and that all beings deserve to be free from suffering surely has freed many a practitioner from his or her own suffering.  

 

Somehow it seems that the closer the person is to us the harder it may be to practice compersion.  Maybe that is where the true challenge and reward lies.   If our loved ones are close up mirrors of ourselves then wouldn’t it make sense to want to see them happy so that they can reflect back a happier image of ourselves? 

 

When you take a glance in that mirror, you might see that, while you look all right in GREEN, the color of COMPERSION looks absolutely stunning on you and IN you!

 

 

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 


It's about TIME.....
Posted by Ken on Wed Jan 01 2014

"I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."  

-Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn and Me 

Why is it that a famous person’s death brings clarity about our own mortality?  During my recent visit to Palm Springs, I was inspired to explore the concept of time and mortality while taking pictures at the larger-than-life statute of the late Marilyn Monroe.  This icon, as you know, died quite young.  But in her short time, Ms. Monroe said some pretty powerful things. 

 

“Millions of people live their entire lives without finding themselves.  But it is something I must do.”

 

I realized that she may have understood that her time was limited and that every life experience has some deeper and richer lesson when we contemplate it within the context of time and mortality.

 

Radical acceptance of what is and what will inevitably be can change how we live in the world – and how we choose to approach the things we can change.  There’s a dynamic paradigm shift happening here and now around the topic of mortality and how it informs our lives.  Isn’t it interesting that at the tail end of 2013 at least two major TV shows tackled this sacred exploration of death?  

 

Anderson Cooper explored life, death, and faith in “To Heaven and Back” with interviews of people who have had near death experiences.   Showtime premiered its ambitious “The Time of Death” with six episodes delving into the final weeks in the lives of dying people and their loved ones. Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen said:

 

“You won’t want to watch this. Yes, it will wreck you.  But you’ll be grateful you let it.”

 

It seems quite natural for us to fear the unknown, especially about death.  But many teachers who specialize in Personal Death Awareness share the multiple health benefits of deepening our ability to tolerate and even overcome the discomfort around the topic.  In some ways, denying death is a form of adult magical thinking and can lead to aggressive and destructive behavior.  On the other hand, a grounded acceptance of death as a part of life offers us a precious perspective on how abundant life can be. Beyond the fear, there’s an opportunity to cherish all aspects of our lives. 

 

In an earlier MINDFUL CHATTER entry I offered several practices and disciplines that anyone can develop to create this evolved relationship with time.    

 

So, what are you doing to enhance the finite number of minutes, days, months, or years as we enter 2014?  Can you take some of that time to devote to exploring your own fear or fascination with death?

Here are a few books and a few movies that might be a place to start. 

Yoga, yoga therapy, and other healing modalities can also help you develop and share your thoughts and feelings about death and dying. 

Finally, check out additional resources on my website’s MINDFUL LIVING/CONSCIOUS DYING page.  As our fast paced world makes time speed by, set an intention to deepen your appreciation of every moment!  Or, as Marilyn put it…

 

“We should all start to live before we get too old”

 

Time is Precious 


SANT(osh)A CLAUS is coming to town...
Posted by Ken on Sun Nov 24 2013

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  ― Lao Tzu

 

What IF this year you spent little to no money during the holiday season?  How would that change things in our world?  What do the people in your life really need right now? Better yet, what if you announced to all the people in your life that you will not accept material items during the holiday season, thereby modeling for those around you that you are practicing contentment or SANTOSHA, which is the second of the Niyamas in Yoga.  

Even as some of us are finishing up our Thanksgiving leftovers, let’s face it:  it’s not that easy to go cold turkey when we live in a civilization that has constant consumerism as one of its primary pillars.   But as we look around at where we are going as a civilization, it doesn’t take much to see that our current way of life is not sustainable nor is it very fulfilling for the majority of us.  So for now, I just want to add my tiny little stocking stuffer of a cultural meme and ask each of you to help share this idea.  It’s a concept that has been around for a long, long time.  I am just going to give it a little pop cultural makeover, just like how Santa Claus came to be way back in the early 1800s (or earlier according to some legends).

And for those not so ready or willing to play along, let me use a slightly different approach. (CAUTION: the following video contains both shocking and shameful human behavior!)   Check out this footage of Black Friday and meditate on whether or not you want to be part of the chaos on any shopping day.    Our current paradigm of spending, shopping, consuming has us in an endless DOPAMINE LOOP.  It’s what makes our societal gerbil wheel spin faster and faster, without a hint that we can choose to jump off.  Check out the documentary CONNECTED for a very promising look at how we can change things.

So, I hope I have a few more of you on board.   Next, let’s tap into our imagination and create a NEW holiday entity based on the yoga concept of SANTOSHA, or contentment.   What if this joyful figure was dressed in some fun and colorful hand-me-downs, had two dazzling eyes (you pick the color) filled with mirth and compassion?  What if this being wandered around the shopping areas around this time of the year, and had a magical power that tapped into a person’s basic desire to connect with loved ones?  What if everyone believed in SANTOSHA CLAUS, and we appreciated what we already have rather than overspending on material goods?  What if this belief in SANTOSHA CLAUS became universal and was actually celebrated every day in every corner of the planet?   How might the world be different?  How might your holiday season be different? 

Can you share this with at least three other people in your life that you believe in SANTOSHA CLAUS?   Can you spread the word that there is something magical happening and it can happen anywhere anytime?

It doesn’t matter if you have been naughty or nice, because SANTOSHA CLAUS is already in your town!

 

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself.” 
― Walt Whitman


aMUGdala? No, AMYGDALA! And, how I overcame a very distressing mugging incident….
Posted by Ken on Mon Oct 21 2013

“Without difficulties, life would be like a stream without rocks and curves – about as interesting as concrete. Without problems, there can be no personal growth, no group achievement, no progress of humanity. But what mattes about problems is what one does with them.” 
― Benjamin HoffThe Te Of Piglet

 

On September 11, 2013, I was walking a few blocks from the downtown Oakland BART station when two guys ran up on me, flashed a gun and shouted, “Give me your money!”   I was quite taken aback and tossed them my old cell phone.  Luckily, they were satisfied with the beat up old phone.  Not much street value to say the least.   I was fortunate that they didn’t use physical force and seemed to be more interested in getting a quick turnaround on some of my goods. As startled as I was, it could have been worse.  I lost an old phone with a weak battery and a broken case. I rationalized that I’d been living in Oakland for over 13 years, and was somewhat fortunate that this was my first mugging.

 

And besides, I’m a yoga therapist.  I should be able to roll with this punch, right?

 

No quite!!  It took me almost a week to realize that this incident had impacted my sleep patterns.  My amygdala was on hyper alert mode and would not calm down.  It was even more than just being afraid or having an increased startle response.  That part of my brain was ON and would not turn OFF.

 

I took a couple weeks off from some of my teaching obligations and social work jobs and increased my time on the yoga mat and acupuncture table.  

 

What the muggers stole from me:

1)  An old iPhone with little street value

2)  Temporarily, they stole my trust in strangers

3)  Temporarily, they took my ability to get a good night’s sleep

 

 

 

What the mugging incident essentially gave to me:

1)    A reinforcing of my belief that our society is very unjust and that, given the opportunity, MOST thieves would rather get a pay check than have to live a life of crime.

2)    A stronger love of Oakland and the people with whom I coexist.  Most of the peeps here are very kind and look out for each other.  The woman that helped me afterwards proves that!

3)    A reminder of my strong desire to contribute to this world and make it a better place for all

4)    My belief that alternative health like yoga and acupuncture are lifesavers is stronger than ever!

5)    My gratitude to all of you who showed me in so many different ways that you care about me and that indeed “we are all just walking each other home.”

 

Thanks to this incident, my commitment to my health and well-being is stronger, and my yoga practice deeper.  It does sadden me that we have created a society where many people do not have job opportunities.  Oakland has earned the title of the ‘robbery capital of the nation’ because of this inequity.  While I am more cautious when I walk or bike the streets of my beloved city, I refuse to let it take away from all that I appreciate of this city.   And I am always sure to check out the daily dose of GOOD NEWS that happens in Oakland to keep my outlook 'fair and balanced.'

 

I am grateful for the woman who lent me her phone so I could call the police to report the mugging.   I am grateful for the quick response of the Oakland Police and how thorough they were with the investigation.  I am so blessed to have people who reassured me during the more distressing two weeks after the incident.

 

Three weeks after the incident, I held my yoga therapy office space’s OPEN HOUSE and I was so touched by the 30 people who came from the different parts of my life:  some yoga students, some friends, some colleagues…all kind and caring people who believe in community.  Shortly after the mugging, I shed some tears of sadness. 

But those tears – and that mugging – turned to tears of joy the night of the open house.

I have chosen to serve in an urban jungle and that is where I will be for a while longer.   I have forgiven the two men who stole from me and have offered them many a heartfelt OM in hopes that they find a better way to coexist with those of us that live peaceful lives.    

 

As John Lennon, sings in his eternally profound song, IMAGINE

 

“You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.  Someday I hope you will join us, and the world will be as one.”

 

 

 

 

 


Curling, anyone?
Posted by Ken on Thu Sep 26 2013

 

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on.

Maybe what matters is that we embark.” ― Barbara Hall

 

Curling, anyone?

What do yoga therapy and the Canadian sport of curling have in common? At first glance, curling looks a lot like shuffleboard on ice. (Whereas yoga looks like synchronized swimming on dry land?!)  But it inspires great loyalty among true fans because of the intention, teamwork, and careful observation it requires.  One teammate pushes a stone across the ice towards a goal, appropriately named the HOUSE.    Two other teammates skillfully stay off to the side but slightly in front of the stone, sweeping the ice to guide it as close to the house as possible. Players can speed up or slow down a stone, or curl it toward the house by carefully observing the ice, and by carefully working with teammates.  When all teammates work together as one, it gets where it needs to go. It’s all about teamwork, about setting an intention, and finding the ideal path home!

 

Yoga is really all about intention and the amount of time and energy spent deepening the practice.  It’s never too early or too late to start.   Once you bravely step on the yoga mat for the first time, you propel yourself forward towards a healthier mind and body.   We confront our own projections, doubts and fears on the mat.  But we strengthen our self-compassion, stress tolerance, and commitment to our own well-being.   I, as a yoga therapist, can offer guidance and encouragement by helping with alignment and appropriate poses for one’s health condition.  But I cannot do the practice for the yogi/yogini.   That is something only the person can do for him or herself.

 

Even in yoga, we are all on the same team.  We’re all helping move each other home.  But in our busy lives, sometimes doing it for the other person or not doing anything at all seems to be the ‘easy way out’ – a way of avoiding our own way home.  But if we are indeed on the same team (Team Earth!), then let us take a look at how a little extra effort to our own self-care propels the entire team in the right direction.  

 

This is really just a continuation of August’s newsletter theme of “paying it forward”.   But instead of putting that energy outwards, why not take a few extra minutes each day to set an intention, do a few yoga stretches and practice mindfulness meditation?  Research shows clearly that even a 15 minute daily practice can increase GABA and dopamine levels and decrease depressive and anxious symptoms. 

 

While curling is a competitive sport, yoga is not.  With yoga, we can dance safely on our edge and deepen our practice knowing that its less about winning a medal and more about winning a healthier body, a calmer mind, and a more joyful heart. 

 

That’s quite the win-win, eh? 

 


It's my party and I'll OM if I want to....
Posted by Ken on Wed Aug 07 2013
It's My Party and I'll OM if I Want To
Pay It Forward

Namaste, my fellow Yogis and Yoginis! Greetings to you during the Downward DOG days of summer!
I am excited to share that I turn 44 later this month.
I must say that I am more into counting blessings in my life than candles on a cake!

Though with all those candles, it sure is getting brighter and I can see the numerous
blessings in my life more clearly than ever before. I must confess, a regular yoga and
meditation practice has saved my life in more ways than one!

And one of the blessings of this life is that I get to share
the therapeutic benefits with so many people.
Please join me in my birthday celebration. It's inspired by one of my favorite movies. No, I am not asking you to all dress up as your favorite Muppet or Planet of the Apes character!
I'll wait to do
those things during a more age-appropriate 50 or 60! It is based on the movie "Pay It Forward" and involves spending no money or sending me a card.
It is pretty simple, actually. I am asking each of you to be part of a "PAY IT FORWARD" movement.
It's a concept that has been around since at least ancient Greece and my hope is that it can
continue on long after you and I are no longer alive. Can you find time this month to offer one (or more) random act of kindness to a stranger. For specific PAY IT FORWARD steps, click here. Do something that does not involve exchange of money or material goods.
It could be offering your leftover from
dining out to a homeless person.
It could be helping someone find their way.
It might be volunteering a few hours or a day of your time to help out a local charity or service agency.


Follow the good in your heart, and you can't go wrong! And, in case you were wondering, YOU receive at least 5 health benefits when you are kind to others.

Click here to learn more about how participating in my birthday wish will improve your well being, too!
WATCH THESE THREE VIDEOS below, 
and know that there's no act of kindness, no matter how small, that is ever wasted!
 
Maybe Someday-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzbNMHNSi2E


Random Acts of Kindness -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeph_eX_pVw

 
What Would It Take to Restore Your Faith in Humanity? - 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F5lbMrCj80

Thanks for being one of the blessed lights in my life!


Peace and OM, Ken



Who is the TRUE HERO this summer?
Posted by Ken on Mon Jun 24 2013

It’s a Bird!  It’s a Plane! It's......

Man of Steel

 

Nope.  It’s a human being!

 

While theater screens abound with heroic stories about ‘men of steel’ this summer, I would actually like to reflect on last year’s big hit:  The Hunger Games.

If you read the book or saw the film, you know the story is about Katniss Everdeen, a teenager forced to take part in a horrible battle to the death on live TV.  You probably developed an empathic connection to some or all of the characters faced with a horrible conundrum:  kill or be killed.   What type of society would choose innocent youth, throw them onto an battlefield, and film every blow for entertainment?!

catching fire

            Let’s face it: life throws us incredible challenges from our first moment to our last.  A movie like The Hunger Games shows us a dark side of that reality, asking us to explore life challenges that we didn’t choose  -- but have no choice but to face and overcome. 

            Where do we turn in order to find resolution or solace in a trying situation?   Where do we go to tap into the wisdom that helps us make sense of what is before us?   Do we turn to those around us or do we turn to our inner guidance?  Well, we need to rely on them both. We trust both our inner wisdom and the benefits of interdependence. 

            Sometimes closing the eyes is the answer.  Turning inward is not denial. We develop our inner wisdom and intuition through a yoga and meditation practice.  We see the same when Katniss was able to check in with the teachings of her father who instructed her on how to survive in nature.

            Sometimes asking for help from others is useful. We all benefit from having allies!  Katniss forged a sweet bond with another youth who was eventually killed.  As painful as this death was, the connection helped Katniss stay focused on keeping her humanity and compassion.   In the midst of the cruel and unfair game she was forced to play, she was able to use her charm to earn her the support of outside supporters, or ‘sponsors.’   And even in the bare bones of survival, Katniss never took advantage of other people.   Ultimately, Katniss persevered because she began to trust her abilities, with intuition being one of the most coveted.  While she won the competition, she really won because she kept her humanity – both by listening to inner wisdom and by seeing that, in each moment – no matter how dreadful – there is a good, ethical, and compassionate way to be.

            The sequel won’t be out until November, so you might consider another inspirational tale:  that of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.  The story speaks through the ages (just like Katniss’!).  Arjuna is a mythical warrior who must choose sides in a hopeless, bloody battle between two sides with nothing to gain and everything to lose.  As with Katniss, simply denying your role in events isn’t an option.  But with a clear mind, any situation can lead us to enlightenment.

Here are a couple quick links to get you started on Arjuna’s story:

A young Arjuna learning to hone his skills of concentration.  

Arjuna faces with the moral dilemma of entering a war.  

Arjuna benefited from Krishna’s reality checks as he entered his battle.  Arjuna’s dialogue with Krishna is an existential exploration that shines the light of truth on what destiny really means.  As brief as this part of the epic Mahabharata is, it is one of the first writings on the many facets and benefits of yoga.

Arjuna and Krishna

While both the The Hunger Games and Arjuna’s tale are inspirational and educational, you are the one living a life that can be challenging and rewarding.  And this leads me to the real summer blockbuster superstar.  This superstar doesn’t even need a cape to be a real hero.  He doesn’t even need to be made of steel.

That’s because, THE HERO IS YOU!  

 

Your life journey is where the real thrill is and where the true tests of courage lie.   We may not be facing life or death in an arena like Katniss, or have to go into battle like Arjuna, but each of us has his own tale to tell of how we have overcome and persevered.  

I know some people (including myself) who have fought huge corporations to save our homes.  I have witnessed amazing courage in people dealing with health issues like cancer and HIV who fight to prolong their lives against incredible odds.   I know of people dealing with enormous amounts of stress and how they have transformed their lives through yoga and other mindfulness-based practices.  The list of modern day champions go on, and that list includes YOU!  

Step onto your yoga mat to recharge.  Tap into your inner wisdom.   Trust that you are strong enough.  Trust that these challenges are presented to you for a reason.

            You’re the superhero! So get yourself a theme song and an epic title along with your intention and make this summer a JAI-full and joyful season of meeting each challenge with dignity and grace!  Each day you wake up is a sequel unwritten and as you set your daily intention and hum your theme song, know that you can tap into your inner strength and face almost anything.   I am here to cheer you on and I thank you for always doing the same for me.    

Now, pass me the popcorn, the movie is about to begin….


I have been DYING to share this with you....
Posted by Ken on Mon Jun 24 2013

  

“Don’t take life so seriously, no one gets out alive.”  -Elbert Hubbard

 

Someday, I will take my last breath and “I” will be no longer.  This thought, well, to be quite honest, it sometimes almost scares me....death.  But the more I practice yoga and incorporate other shamanic meditation techniques, the more my mortality intrigues me and gives my life a whole new level of richness.  

I find many of my yoga therapy clients come to me as they have come into a deepening of their own personal death awareness after the death of a loved one or a significant change in their own health.   I find many that attend my Yoga for Grief workshops share about a deeper appreciation for life even in the face of losing someone or something so precious.  Not everyone is ready to take on the exploration of how to live fully and if this topic causes you extreme emotional discomfort, please put this aside to read for another time.  

I just returned from a trip back to my hometown in Pennsylvania.  This was the first time in two years I was with my biological family.  As each of us are mirrors for others, I saw how the older generation is slightly more grey in the temples, is moving a bit slower and smiling with a few more wrinkles around the eyes.  The exact same thing can be said about my own reflection in the mirror.   How do I make sense of the passing of time and embrace that each moment is abundantly full of grace and beauty?  It isn’t always that easy to see the beauty and grace and indeed I am pretty certain that it won’t get easier as life continues to move faster and faster.  Death asks us to come up with answers to the BIG questions such as…

 

-“What part of me dies and what part may live on?”

-“Does dying have to be exclusively a painful process?”

-“How can I prepare for death and yet not obsess about it?”

-“How can I enjoy what life has to offer if I realize nothing lasts forever?”

 

This quote strikes me as key in moving from an adversarial relationship with physical death to a more friendly one:

 

“Yoga doesn’t take time, it gives time.”  -Ganga White

 

We need time – and we need a positive awareness of time. 

 

If you are ready to take this existential exploration a step further, I offer you the following 5 effective tools.  They work great on your own or with me or another healer.  I’m always happy to help you find a good fit!

 

Tools:

1)    Tonglen meditation practice:  This Buddhist breathing and mantra meditation helps bring balance between suffering and healing in one’s life. 

2) Personal Death Awareness: Once we realize that not exploring our own mortality is a culturally acceptable form of procrastination, we may conclude that there is no need to wait until we have 6 months or less to live.   This assessment can help put into perspective on how we wish to live more fully and die without regret.   Check out this one version of the assessment by clicking here.     

3)    Proactively develop a yoga practice keeps you mindfully present.  If you have done even one yoga practice, you have already practiced dying in the final pose.  That’s why they call it the corpse pose!   This restful state of lying on your yoga mat can free the ego and monkey mind from its musings, bringing a sense of liberation and calmness that is what many people who have experienced NDE (Near Death Experience) say dying is like.    The more we practice, the more we can access this clear and egoless state of consciousness.

4)    Daily Yoga Nidra practice:  This practice can be as short as 10 minutes and some practice it for up to an hour.  It is also a death ritual that helps us become aware of different levels of consciousness and bring us closer to an understanding of who we truly are.   I help each client develop her/his own nidra practice and there are also free recordings on YouTube as well as free smartphone apps that are readily available. 

5)    Create a Bucket List and actively work on manifesting the items on it!  If not now, when?  If not you, who?  Make one, check them off as you go along!

 

These tools can benefit anyone at any point in her/his life, as long as s/he is ready and willing to explore and expand one's consciousness.  It's never too late OR too early to deepen one's appreciation of life!  

Allow me to move one step closer to another variation of this perhaps controversial topic that I am sharing with you.   Have you ever heard of a death doula?

According to wisegeek.com, a death doula is defined as follows:

For the dying, a death doula offers comfort, support, and companionship. Many death doulas work in groups, so that someone will always be available to sit at the deathbed, and doulas may sit quietly with the dying, sing to them, talk with them, or offer other acts of companionship.”

In addition to longer term supportive work around Mindful Living & Conscious Dying, I also have a strong calling to do death doula work.  In fact, my work as both a psychotherapist and a yoga therapist are quite complementary to this specialty.  I have been volunteering with the Living/Dying Project for the past two years and will continue to offer my services on a sliding scale.   If you or someone you know may benefit from death doula support, please know I am available for free consultation.  

I chose Ram Dass’ quote “We are all walking each other home” as the theme to represent my private practice because I am deeply moved by the strength within each of us to face our fear of dying and bring into the light a genuine appreciation for the precious gift of life.   All the wisdom you need is within you, and I bow to you as you journey along your path. 

 

In peace and in breath,

Ken

 

 

 

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse and how you can survive...
Posted by Ken on Sat Apr 20 2013
 zombies are real
 
Hordes of Zombies….Hording Zombies… the REAL Zombie apocalypse is NOW!   And here’s the spoiler alert: YOU already have the cure….

Like all trends, our culture’s macabre fascination with zombies comes and goes. In my lifetime alone, there have been several waves of zombie movies that have captured the imagination of many and offended the morals of many others.  While there are some pre-George Romero zombie films, Mr. Romero deserves the credit for jumpstarting  this genre with his low-budget, brain-feasting gore fests filmed in rural Pennsylvania (my home state!) back in 1968 (a year before I was born) and the world has never been the same. 

 Before we go any further, there may be a few of you that are asking:

why is a yoga therapy blogger writing about zombies anyway?

 

Well, it seems that our pop culture is getting even more into this genre, and I realized much like I did when I saw the opening scene of the 2004 zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead that life is being imitated by art and that we actually are experiencing a real life zombie invasion right now.  

Yes, now!

According to Wikipedia’s definition, a ZOMBIE is “a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli”.   As in the films, so in real life: the reason how and why the pandemic started is not always clear. But fortunately for us our real life zombie pandemic does have a cure and we have it right within us right NOW.

 I look around the world and am a bit dismayed by our society’s ability to lull us into  zombie sleepwalkers through its incessant bombardment with sales pitches for things we don’t need.  To put it point-blank, we must realize by now that our current way of life is not sustainable in the long run.  Check out this LINK to read more about how consumerism is destroying not just our brains but our planet as well.   And we also need to use our brains and think of what comes next for our culture.  While it is clear there is another ONE right way to live, it does seem to becoming clearer to many of us that our current way of life is not serving us nor the planet.   We do indeed need to wake up our the next generation or the one after that will be left with a mess even worse than what we are facing right now.   I am doing my best, and I really inspired to see a growing number of us Un-Undeads that are ready and willing to rise up and WAKE UP!

This current real life pandemic is both insidious and ominous. If each of us is not careful, we can slip into a hoarding zombie state of mind that leads us to want to consume , not brains, but more THINGS.  And the unfortunate side effect is our brains do become mush.   

Yuck, who wants mushy brains?!

 

One specific example is that researchers are exploring a new phenomenon called

TIADD:  Technology-Induced Attention Deficit Disorder.   

Yes, hooray we are able to do more things at once, but how does that impact other crucial mental abilities such as mindful decision-making about what we buy and how much we buy?    Another symptom is being called “technostress” which includes anxiety, mental fatigue, depression, and feelings of helplessness.  Watch any zombie movie or TV show and see if you don’t see the undead not exhibiting some of the same symptoms.  

Hordes of Zombies are becoming hoarding Zombies. 

 

This real life Zombie invasion is a sneaky one I tell you. 

 By now, I hope you are with me in wondering: what are some effective tools I can use to make sure I don’t become a zombie?  And if you are quite confident that you are not one already, the next important task in a Zombie apocalypse is to be sure that my family, friends and neighbors are not? 

 Here are SEVEN powerful tools that can help.  And, no, a pitchfork is not one of them!

 Please heed these words of caution:  while most real life zombies do not bite, please know that some may become quite agitated if you shove these tools in their face, not unlike when the humans in the movies use fire to ward off the zombies.   Once you have prescreened yourself, please be sure to offer these tools to others with consideration and compassion.  Most real life Zombies are deep in denial about their zombie state, and speaking from my own rude awakening from  zombiehood, the tools are best used gently and gradually because the transition back to being human can be  slow and painful. 

 

1)    Take the NEEDS vs. WANTS quiz:  www.mcwdn.org/ECONOMICS/NeedsWants.html

 2)    Develop or deepen a meditation practice to enhance Mindful consumption. Before making a purchase or acquiring something you think you need, meditate and clear your mind to help clarify your decision-making process.

 3)    Take a technology fast (an hour, a day, a week?).  See www.harbins.org/2011_TurnOffTechnologyWk.pdf for other examples.

4)    Cook more, entertain at home more, connect with others more.  Yes, our ailing economy begs us to spend more of the money we often do not have, but try slowing down and eating out less, pulling out that old Scrabble or Taboo game, and if you do have extra money to spend, calculate how much money you saved by doing so and donate it to your chosen charity.   Best part about this real life zombie invasion is you don’t have to ask your guests to help you board up your windows or move heavy furniture against the doors.  Whew!

5)    Look through the sunglasses of Nada in They Live.  Ok, I threw this one in there to see if the Zombie fans were paying attention.  I admit, the aliens in They Live were not technically zombies but they sure did look like them didn’t they?     The point here is to really explore the messages we receive from the media about what and how to consume and how and what to think.  Take a gander at the next wave of commercials that you watch and write down what product is a want and what is a true need.  And, yes those sunglasses are actually back in style again!

6)    Lest we forget those in the world that are less fortunate than us , we can all do ourselves a big favor and remind each other that all the best things in life are still free  - air, water, quiet times with loved ones, sharing your good fortune with others through volunteering and just slowing down long enough to make eye contact with another and say hi.  We aren’t dealing with pod people, folks!!  Before Roger Ebert died he shared that his only religion was KINDNESS and I think he left us with a very key tool here.  STOP, DROP (your things), and BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER.   Movie zombies don’t respond to this peaceful power, but in real everyday life, we all do!

 7)  Please check out "THE CULTURE OF DYING" an informative and inspired podcast inteview of Stephen Jenkinson, a Canadian Social Worker who is an expert on Mindful Living. 

Can you help us come up with more?  In order to make sure we don’t have a real life World War Z (add link) in our life time, our movement could use all the help you can offer.  Please write to me your ideas on how you have successfully saved yourself and others from becoming part of the hordes of hoarding Zombies that roam the planet. 

Coping in the midst of a Zombie apocalypse is serious business, but it is right there in your own hands and own hearts.  So for what it’s worth, this exercise in battling zombies in the here and now can help your mind too.  And isn’t that what every Hollywood Walker really wants:  a world full of juicy ripe BRAINS!!

 “Alive or dead, the truth won't rest. Rise up while you can.” 
― Mira GrantFeed

 
Alive and kickin'
Ken

 

 

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