How to Reflect on 2011 and prepare for 2012

Another new year is almost here and with it the annual pressure to decide how to pass this special moment.  In the past I was drawn to revelry and substance abuse of  all sorts.  I’ve driven drunk through police barricades and over stop signs, whooped it up in the crowd as the ball dropped in Times Square,  gotten completely wasted at a concert where John Belushi made a cameo appearance swigging champagne and spitting a shower of it out onto us in the audience, and of course I drove the 40 miles home barely conscious of the road. They say God protects fools, babies and drunkards and I suppose I qualified for all three.  I grew up during a time when smoking, drinking and imbibing chemicals was thought of as cool.  It was how I was taught to relax, enjoy and let off steam.  Over the past 15 years my approach to special moments has really changed.

    Source: Ebaum's World

I've come to treat the coming of the new year with great reverence.  I really try to reflect on the past year and contemplate how I'd like to form my future.  With this sort of thinking in mind, people have given me questions to ponder that helped direct me in my process.  They have been a great aid.  This year no one has given me directions so I have developed a list of questions of my own.  I share it here in the hope that these questions might be useful to you in your own process.

What did I learn in the past year?
If I could relive any moments (to re-experience them or do them differently) what would they be?
What new connections did I make that I value?
What old connections did I deepen and how?
If this last year was a book with a title what would that title be?  (subtitling allowed)

And in thinking of the New Year

How do I want to grow in the New Year?
What do I hope to let go of?
What do I yearn to embrace?
What new thing or things do I need to learn?
If I could title the coming year I would call it "The Year of  _____________________"

A lovely way to do this kind of thinking is to spend a day just sitting with these questions, cogitating, journaling, sipping tea, taking naps, doing relaxation practices, like the Five Minutes of Bliss, totally melting into it and sharing with someone or a group of someones.   Even spending an hour by yourself doing this can really help to frame what has happened for you and create the kind of future you dream of having.

Those earlier chaotic years now seem to me, to be expressions of how badly I was blocked at the places of reflection.  I was programmed to do and think of things a certain way. There was no room for feeling my way through, sensing my desires and then moving toward them, where ever this might lead.  There was no meandering.  It was all a head long thrust along established paths, some of which were very unhealthy.

Contemporary society does little to encourage lateral movement and god forbid we should back track or spiral or swirl.  Those are not the most direct paths to meeting the next deadline.  We are trained to constantly be going from A to B.  I hope in answering your questions you will open yourself to your full potential and every direction it is possible to take.  Going from A to B is great when it meets your needs.  To know about your needs though, it often requires a bit of meandering.

Get Mushy and Have Fun.  Wishing you All the Best for 2012 and Beyond.

Peace and Love,

Happy Hate Holiday!

Way back in the last century, I had a professor in college, named Ray Birdwhistell, who was a friend of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead and a great Yogi.  I'm not sure if he ever did a pose but when it came to telling the unvarnished truth he was unparalleled.  One of the truths he imparted is that most holidays are hate holidays and that the bigger the occasion the higher the hate factor!

    Source:  Natali Chernozhuk

     Oh no you say, I love the holidays.  If that is all you feel around the holidays, you are in a distinct minority. For all the love and connection that goes on there are equal and sometimes larger countervailing forces at play.  For better or worse, the holidays are a time of reflection on the way we wish things were and how they are not measuring up.  They are a time to dredge up disappointments from the past and compare them to our current predicaments.  This is a time of year when we are expected to gather around with people we rarely see anymore and revel in a special bond we are too busy to nurture.  We have to spend all kinds of money we don't have trying to please people who are impossible to make happy.  Many of us have to travel great distances to wallow in all this discomfort and those who skip it are left with the loneliness of being alone when everyone is supposed to be together.  And don't even get me started of the sadness of remembering departed loved ones and peopled who are too aged or infirm to enjoy the season.  Does this sound like it doesn't suck to you?  I didn't think so.


     So what is a yogi to do?  If you are one of the people fortunate enough to be centered at this time of year or possibly even upbeat, looking forward to the chaos and the sharing ahead, give the people around you who are suffering a lot of room to move through their stuff.  All the frustrated travelers, angry customers, disappointed relations, depressed souls need to vent and share and be cared for.  And if you are one of them give yourself a break.  The days have been markedly shorter.  Your primitive mind is afraid that the world is dying.  No wonder your energy is low, your temper short, your desire to share at a low ebb.  All this is happening while the world around you is exploding with messages about how great you should be feeling.  Ho, ho, holy shit.  Give yourself great latitude and  listen to the difficult feelings that come up.  Have some hot tea and take care of yourself as best you can.  Once you do you may have something left to share with others.
     So, recognizing the truth of the situation, where does that leave us as yogis?  Grousing about the hateful nature of the holidays?  Not in the least.  Learning to love all of it is our challenge.  The hard parts, the sad parts and the tidings of comfort and joy.  Accepting it all and letting it all pass through us and encouraging others to do the same.  That is where the hate holiday becomes a love holiday as we unite in our common humanity.  Rejoice with the joyful and weep with the downcast and love everyone, including yourself as best you can.  I'm sure Ray Birdwhistell, loving curmudgeon that he was, would approve.
     From me and mine to you and yours I wish you Peace and Love this holiday season.


Five Minutes of Bliss: One Minute At A Time: Samadhi For Busy People

I've been writing this Five Minutes of Bliss column for about three months now.  When I first came up with the idea I thought 5 minutes was the minimum time needed to settle, shift into a relaxed mode and have some time to enjoy it but in fact Nirvana may be only a breath away.  For years I've been interspersing very short periods of meditative mind with my normal, more generally outward focus.  I find these brief, often one minute or less, periods of "contemplation" to be soothing and richly supportive of conscious lifestyle.  Plus, I think they prepare me to enjoy longer periods of absorption when I make the time for them or I'm fortunate enough to naturally slip into them.

    Source:  Fountains of Wayne

Here is a truism I learned from a Sales Manager I had many years ago, during a brief period when I was trying to sell radio time.  Very few things I picked up at that time have remained with me, so this really resonated.  He told me that the things we do a lot of we become very good at.  We enjoy being very good at things.  We do things that we enjoy a lot.  It is a virtuous cycle.  Dropping below surface attention, exploring deeper realms can become an ingrained habit in this way.  Do this a lot and you will become very good at it.  You will enjoy being very good at it and so you will want to do it a lot.  And so on.

Here's How:

You may be wondering, "When do I try these short meditations and how do I fit them into my busy, ultra full life?"  Here's some ideas that I have found useful to get you started, hopefully you will find many more.

The concept is to stay in the present moment more of the time by consciously willing your mind to focus on what is happening in the here and now, on the level of first order awareness, the perception of sensations or on revery that is at most one step removed from first order perception, that is, thinking about something you are experiencing.  Reactive states that take us away from first order awareness and into judmental thought are avoided here as are thoughts about the past and the future, except in so far as they directly relate to what we are experiencing now.

Well that is a mouthful.  Fortunately, like many practices it is easier done than said.

One of the things I often do on autopilot is taking a shower.  If I'm not careful, I can enter the shower, bathe completely and leave it barely having felt any of the activity because I was so wrapped up in thinking of what I'd be doing after I was done showering, later in my day or some other time.  This "thinking" in the shower was so ingrained for me that it was a perfect time to open up to the beauty of the moment.  So now, on a good day, I bring my awareness to the sensations of showering, the warm moist air in the shower chamber, the way it fills my nasal passages and soothes them, the feel of the water driving against various parts of my body, the smell of the soap and smooth touch of it sliding on my skin.  And then I notice a scab and I remember cutting myself and then I call my self an idiot for being so careless and then I start worrying that I'll never get the hang of.....  And I've washed half my body and I have been anywhere but in the shower, so I take a deep breath and attempt to return to feeling the roughness of the washcloth as I rub the tops of my feet, filling myself with the tingling of the hot streams of water as I rinse the detangling creme from my scalp, the relaxed warmth of my freshened body and so on.  Ahhh.  I can have my own spa moment before rushing into my day and it is only a turn of thought away.

    Source:  Regular Joe

The practice of return to focus and letting go of wandering mind is a core meditation practice and can be developed and strengthened in this way.  Another place I like to enter the present moment is when brushing my teeth.  Again it is a place I habitually think of anything else but what I am doing and it is very rich and pleasurable to stay with first order consciousness during this experience.  Our mouths have more nerve endings in them than any other part of our bodies so it is a place rich with sensation and really enjoyable to explore.  Just feel the the floss in your hands and between your teeth (since I've started doing this I have begun to look forward to flossing in a big way!), then feel the swish of water as you rinse and smell the minty scent of tooth paste, delighting in the brush as it gently massages your teeth and gums.  This can be a wonderful sensory treat.  A fun gift you can give yourself that starts your day with joy.  Here's a tip to make maintining this gentle focus easier.  Switching the hand that you do things with.  This helps to slow you down and bring your activity into awareness.  It works for brushing hair and teeth, shaving and other things.  When something is new or difficult it will naturally hold your attention making it easier to stay with it, so if you are righty use your left hand and if a southpaw give your right hand a try.

    Source:  Travel and Smile

In this way I've enjoyed picking my clothes out and getting dressed, doing the laundry, putting air in my tires and many other solitary tasks.  I've got special strategies for keeping my mind in the car while driving, on my food while dining alone and on my feet and body moving through space while walking.

Being with others complicates the process of single pointed attention and can make the practice even more rewarding.  Some time back I was in my office talking to a colleague when I found I was getting anxious for them to finish speaking as they went on and on.  I wasn't getting any new information and I felt trapped, wanting to escape and get back to my own work.  Then I noticed how smoothly my colleagues corduroy shirt molded around his body, how soft and warm it looked. This lead me to take in the beauty of the hair growing out of his neck and  head and the simple humanity of his flow of breath.  I sensed his sincere desire to be of service in that moment and was filled with a love for him that transcended my impatience and replaced it with appreciation.  I focused on what he was saying with renewed interest, not because it was helpful to me, which it still was not, but because it was an expression of this beautiful human in front of me.

Similarly, staying with sensation when involved with others can give you clues to your own reactions which you can choose to follow or not.  You can notice the tension building in tightening muscles or the excited feeling in your stomach and heart or the forward thrust of your head and body when you feel interested and drawn in and so on.  Bringing these things into awareness can be clues to how you want to proceed, avoiding, modifying or becoming acclimated to things which make you uncomfortable, seeking, repeating or perhaps saving things you like for later.

Sometimes it is a shock when we let go of habitual thought in the middle of a busy day and come into awareness of physical reality.  We may notice how tense we are, how we may have forgotten self care as we notice the dryness of thirst or the pressure of a full bladder and now we can address these things and feel a sense of ease.

One final practice I think may be useful to you as you move through your jam packed life, is to take a short break in between things.  Before getting off the bus or getting out of the car, before leaving your desk and going to a meeting, at any point of transition taking a moment to see how the last thing we were doing left us and to note the what anticipatory feelings the next thing coming up brings on.  Again, noting first order sensation and what it means to us.  This is particularly nice to do when preparing to leave friends or loved ones before going out to face the world.  Acknowledging any sadness or anxiety that might be felt as pressure behind the eyes or agitation in the stomach, consciously, can make it easier to express love and happiness even though difficult feelings are rising.  Perhaps you will communicate how hard this moment is for you.

As I approach the end of this article I notice that my feet are wrapped around my chair legs and my eyelids feel heavy.  I'm feeling ungrounded by not knowing what activity I'll be taking up next and tired.  I've put my feet flat on the floor to feel more rooted and I'm considering taking a nap, though if it was not Sunday, I  might be considering having a chocolate covered coffee bean.  Om Tat Sat.

After you try this, I'd love feedback on how it went.   Plus if anyone has some favorite times to "come into the moment" that you'd care to share about, I'd love to hear about that too.

5 Minutes of Bliss: How Are You? : A Deep Self Check

Here's a practice that continually surprises me and offers me magnificent insight into myself and how I receive others. I'm calling it, "How are you?", because it answers that question in a very deep way and offers insights into how I can feel more more fully connected to those around me.

          Source:  Sensation

The other day I asked a friend and fellow yogi, Jeff Davis, in an email, how things were going and he responded not with the typical, "Fine," or "Great," or some such perfunctory and obscuring remark but rather with this: " The November light alters my moods, and the other day a phrase came to me about how I feel in my body and soul these days: The Moods of the Woods ~ shadowy and difficult to see far but always richly textured and mysterious." Wow. I really got a sense of what was happening for him and felt encouraged to share about some dark days I had had recently and how I was responding. It took our dialogue to a level I appreciate, one that is real and speaks to our common experience as humans on this earth. In order to dialogue like this however, deep listening must be going on. Being in touch with and feeling comfortable sharing about our inner stirrings is not much encouraged in our consumer culture. We often don't have or create the time for such exploration and sharing. These are things we each have to cultivate on our own and if we are lucky with the help of supportive friends.

One way to get in the habit of this is to ask yourself, "How are you?" or rephrased "How am I?" and then really listening for answers. 

Here's how:
In a comfortable seated position or even laying on your back, take a minute or two to settle with attention to your breath. Feel the expansion and contraction of your lungs and stomach, pelvic girdle and shoulders, all the places affected by your breathing. Notice the cool dry air flowing in and the warm moist air flowing out, following its path. Become aware of the quality of your breath, shallow or deep, full or truncated, hurried or relaxed, without judgment. Don't try to do or change anything, just notice the flow of sensation and take it in. When you are ready, let your mind scan over your body for any sensations that are calling out to you. You may notice pain, tenseness, agitation, excitement, warmth, relaxed feelings, tingling, pulsation, itches or anything else. You may have difficulty coming into contact with your feelings, or you may not have a name for what you are sensing. It is all OK. Whatever seems most present to you, whatever is most captivating your attention, settle on it. That might be on something particular or the interplay of all of it. Let your mind rest gently on the area associated with this interesting perception. If the sensation shifts that is OK, continue to gently but clearly keep your mind focused on this area.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to explore what message this area is sending to you.

What is this sensation trying to tell me?

What can I learn for this?

Is this a familiar sensation? 
When and under what circumstances can I remember having this feeling before?
You may want to reach all the way back to the first time you experienced this or stay more recent, whatever feels productive.

Relax and follow silly ideas and ideas that "make sense". Just stay with the area(s) of sensation and interact interpretively. Relax and have fun.  Your own truth will resonate when it arrives.

Once you have gotten the hang of it, this can be done anytime you have a few minutes to comfortably sit and watch your breathing and track the sensations in your body. A few nights ago, I had spent a short while, before leaving work, doing, the Chakra Balancing Pranayama and was feeling very open. On my way to shopping, I was able to drop in and note how I was feeling, as I drove. Working with what I learned gave me some insights and helped me to let go of something. And here's what continually flips me out. If I hadn't consciously decided to do this practice I never would have noticed what was happening in my body. It was going on but I was totally unaware of it. Shining the light of gently focused attention onto it illuminated some really interesting stuff.

Once I relaxed and settled and gently scanned my body the most prominent things I noticed were a tension in my shoulders and a burning in my chest that included the vague sense that I wanted to vomit since my lower throat muscles felt slightly clenched. Staying with the chest and throat area I realized this was not a familiar sensation for me but it reminded me of times when I had had heart burn from rich food or was sick.

As I settled with these feelings I remembered a call I had had just before I left the office from an angry customer. She had ordered a pair of pants that we were out of. We did not let her know right away, since we thought more might be arriving soon. Ten days had passed since she placed her order and she was very disappointed when she called me only to learn that we were out of the pants. She laced into me saying we had terrible company and should be ashamed and that she would never buy from us again. I had no good reply. I apologized and said I understood how she could be upset but really I was thinking, "Cmon, this is only a pair of pants, what are you so angry about? I don't deserve this." I felt constrained from saying that since I wanted to be a polite customer service person and got off the phone frustrated after assuring her I would refund her money.

As I continued to explore my feelings with this experience in mind, the burning and nausea seemed to me to be the bottled up anger I had about being treated harshly and the nausea was likely a result of me wanting to vomit out my difficult feelings and rip into this woman. Once having seen this I was able to do some self soothing, telling myself, I did nothing wrong. Every once in awhile I am going to disappoint someone. Holding the anger is only hurting myself; in a way, taking on her role of beating myself up. I recognized this was natural but not helpful. Bringing all this into consciousness helped the feelings to recede.

It wasn't until the next day, though, that I was relaxed and open enough to have an even deeper insight. This woman had ordered her pants for a retreat she was going on. I'm guessing she really wanted to look good when meeting her new companions and that it was important to her preparations to show up looking yoga sharp. Her anger was laden with her disappointment, social anxiety and fear and her need for acceptance and love. Now I really did feel badly for her. I still couldn't change the situation but I was sorry to be a part of what caused this suffering for her. Hopefully, the next time I am in a similar situation I will be able to be genuinely sympathetic, even in the face of an angry expression.

Under normal circumstances, I like to try to settle with the top two or even three sensations that come up. I like to thank the area of the body I have just explored for what it has offered me and then move on to the next one. Once I have opened up to all three areas of sensation, I like to linger and remind myself of all I have learned today and thank myself for taking the time to do this and thank my body for all it has shared.

This practice has lead to more surprises than I could ever have imagined. It is great way to open up to what is real for myself in the moment and see the way my body holds onto experiences that are long over. Sometimes the way I feel seems opposite to the way I am acting, like when I am acting angry when I am hurt, scared, or disappointed. It is a great way to go beneath the "big feelings" to what is going on underneath.

This morning I am glad to report I have an excited alive feeling at the top of my stomach and a tingly feeling in my fingers. I am happy and feeling creative and ready for action. There is also some pressure behind my eyes and my shoulders feel tired which I think is my fear that I will lose my upbeatness when I move into the work ahead of me today. Bringing this fear into consciousness, hopefully, will make it possible for me to try and not lose contact with my happy creative self as challenges emerge and I am confronted with negativity. Wish me luck!

After you try it, I'd love feedback on how it went. If you have any questions about the instructions, please let me know.

More great words from Jeff Davis and information about his creativity consulting can be found at his Tracking Wonder website.

5 Minutes of Bliss: Coming Into Your Body with Chakra Balancing

The fast paced, competitive world we live in can be a brutal, isolating place.  Most of us have become numb in some way as a means to survive it.  Unfortunately, while shutting out things we don't want to take in, we also lose the ability to listen to our inner stirrings.  I was very closed off in this way and it has been a big obstacle to coming into contact with myself.  Fortunately, with time, practice and a strong desire to listen one can begin to tune into their inner stirrings and befriend them, rather than tuning them out and avoiding them. One practice that helped me begin to identify and accept the felt sense of emotions in my body is Chakra Balancing.

     Source:  Susan Reep,

When I learned this, it was hard to find information about the chakras.  There were a few books that gave the locations and some ideas about what each chakra related to, but the volumes of material about these energy centers that are available today just wasn't around.  Plus, the tradition that I follow is all about self exploration, which means that we are encouraged to search but often are not told very much about what we will find.  It is enough to know that inner peace lays out there somewhere.  Exactly what each step toward it will be like we have to find out for ourselves.  So, when we were taught chakra balancing, it did not come freighted with many details of what each chakra was meaning.  It was enough to have some basic knowledge and then feel our own way through it.  That said, having this sketchy map of the wheels of energy in the body and developing the desire to listen to what they were trying to tell me, opened my own rich inner realms to me in a way that has deeply informed my life ever since.

Source: Tommyji:

Here's how to do it:
       Chakra balancing pranayama requires three things.  1)  Knowing the basic locations of the chakras.  2)  Knowing the color associated with each chakra.  3) Knowing the bij mantra of each chakra.  The way it works is this.  Find a comfortable seated position with the head erect, shoulders back and down.  Breathe deeply and evenly.  Focus on the location of the first chakra, the root chakra, muladhara in sanskrit.  It is the seat of groundedness found just above the anus, in front of the tip of the spine.  The bij mantra is lam, the color is red.  Singing lam seven times in one breath in a mid tone that vibrates down to the area of focus, visualize the color red filling this area.  Lam, lam, lam, lam, lam, lam, lam.  Do this 3 times. Then go to the next.

2nd chakra, svadistana in sanskrit behind the pubic bone, seat of creative spirit and sexual expression.  The bij mantra is vam the color is orange.  Intone vam seven times in one breath in a mid tone that vibrates down to the area of focus and visualize the area filling with the color orange. Vam, vam, vam, vam, vam, vam, vam. Do this 3 times.  Then go to the next.

3rd chakra, manipura in sanskrit, the solar plexus behind and a little above the naval below the sternum and inch or two in front of the spine.  It is the seat of a desire for power, fame and material success.    The bij mantra is ram, the color is yellow.  Intone ram seven times in one breath in a mid tone that vibrates down to the area of focus and visualize the area filling with yellow light. Ram, ram, ram, ram, ram, ram, ram.  Do this three times. Then go to the next.

4th chakra, heart chakra, anahata in sanskrit, the spiritual heart area just to the right of and behind the physical heart, a few inches ahead of the spine.  It is the home of warm connection with others, affiliative nature and giving spirit.  The bij mantra is yam, the color is green.  Intone yam seven times in one breath in a mid tone that vibrates down to the area of focus and fill that area with green.  Yam, yam, yam, yam, yam, yam, yam. Do this three times.  Then go to the next.

5th Chakra, throat chakra, vishudha in sanskrit, behind the Adam's apple.  It is the seat of communication, truth and rational mind.  The bij mantra is ham, the color blue.  Intone ham seven times in one breath in a mid tone that vibrates down to the area of focus and fill that area with blue.  Ham, ham, ham, ham, ham, ham, ham.  Do this three times.  Then go to the next.

6th Chakra, third eye, ajna in sanskrit, between the eyebrows back near the base of the brain, an inch or two ahead of the spine.  It is the place of intuitive knowledge.  The bij mantra is om and the color is indigo.  Intone om seven times filling the back of the head with indigo.  Om, om, om, om, om, om, om.   Do this three times.  Then go to the next.

7th Chakra, crown chakra, sahasrara in sanskrit, at the top of the head.  It is the place of connection with the divine, the infinite, the spirit realms.  The bij mantra is OM and in this case we say it only once for the full length of the breath while filling the top of the head with violet.  Do this one time only. OM.

Sit for a minute and feel the effects.

Regular practice of Chakra Balancing will make it easier for you to take in and accept the varied and rich messages your body sends you in the form of sensation.  The first step in a dialogue is being able to listen.  An important conversation with your body can begin here.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

Five Minutes of Bliss: Thanksgiving Edition - Give Gratitude and Gain Peace of Mind

Here's something you may not be aware of.  Gratitude expressed to others is something that is an important gift to yourself.  Put another way, giving thanks makes the heart of the giver feel happy and at ease.  Harnessing the power of this engine of good feeling is not difficult.  In just 5 minutes per day you can put the energy of gratefulness to work for you.

Source: Pitterle Postings 

How do you feel when you are grateful?  Happy, appreciative, satisfied, relaxed, excited?  Pretty good huh?  Sometimes you may also feel sad that you don't deserve something or overwhelmed by your good fortune.  Still, those are the kinds of "problems" a lot of us would like to be working on.  They are usually accompanied by a wistful sort of happiness.  An acceptance of our great luck.   A tempered joy.

There is imperical evidence that even just thinking about what you are glad to have in your life will make you happier and more comfortable. Developing this attitude of gratitude with proven techniques is not hard nor time consuming.  What follows is a clinically tested practice, that, if done regularly, leads to increased satisfaction with life.

  Here's how:

Spend 5 minutes each day thinking of  3 things that transpired in the last 24 hours for which you are grateful.  If you can identify a person to thank, send them a text, call and leave a nice message, make a note to thank them next time you see them or express your gratitude in some other way.  Expressing your gratefulness makes the feeling more concrete.  Completing the circuit in this way turbo-charges the positive energy.

Source:  Better Homes and Gardens Ecard

Doing this regularly will develop the pathways in your brain that go to the place of recognizing your good fortune, your connections to others and your general happiness.  It might start on Thanksgiving Day but if you keep it up throughout the year, next Thanksgiving you will be thankful for a generally improved attitude and deeper connections to the people who support your growth and happiness.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

Thank you to the people who have sent me nice comments throughout the years on my email writings and then these blogs.  The positive feedback has made this work very gratifying, fun to do and encouraged me to continue.  Thanks to everyone who has become a follower.  This public display of support is a clear indication that these writings are reaching people and important in somebodies life.  Finally, thanks to everyone who has given me their attention here in the last few years.  I'm glad you've taken the time to check out what I'm offering.  Every visit makes creating this blog more worthwhile for me.

Source:  Ray Greenberg

Five Minutes of Bliss: The Soothing Gesture: facing the taboo on self touch

One of the simplest ways to find contentment and sooth yourself if your feathers are ruffled is to touch yourself in a way that feels reassuring and healing.  Each of us may have a different way to do this.  It is a simple path to self connection, portable and extremely comforting.  Inhibitions and cultural norms may have kept us from exploring such personal intimate contact, but we are adults now and get to choose for ourselves what to embrace and what to reject.

I suggest you take some time to explore the possibilities.  In a quiet moment try out some ways of being in physical contact with your self.  Clasp your fingers and let your hands rest in your lap.  See how it feels.  Interlace your fingers.  How is that different? Let one hand hold the wrist of the other hand.  Hold both wrists at once.  Hold your forearms.  Hold your elbows.  Gently hug yourself.  Let your hand or hands rest on different parts of the body.  Try the heart center, your thighs, belly, whatever you fell drawn to.  The only right way is your way.

Fingers Interlaced

soothing gesture holding wrist

clasping forearms comfort of touch

For some reason, when I tried this some years ago, I immediately loved the solidity of holding my forearms and letting them rest on my stomach.  It felt instantly grounding and warm.  Experimenting with it over time I have found this gesture and variations on it comforting over and over again.  It is a special secret way for me to settle down when I'm feeling agitated.  I'm glad I have it.

I used to do this at night in bed when I would be awakened by an unsettling dream.  Lately, I like a lighter touch.  Lying on my side I let my arms rest on each other in front of my body.  This is also soothing for me.

At different times I have been drawn to putting my hand on my cheek or face or head or neck.  When lying on my back I like to cross my ankles so I have a top leg laying across a bottom leg for maximum warm contact.  There are as many ways to do this as there are ways to touch myself, I suppose, but I still have a special fondness for the forearm clasp.  A nice thing about that position, is that it can be done for three or four breaths whenever I have my hands free, giving myself a little self soothing vacation.

I have been hobbled in my personal development by some nasty ideas about authenticity and the value of things.  Somehow in my cultural development, I came to think that activities which are soothing but do not get at the root of a problem are a waste of time.   Now I think this is way off base.  Self soothing is really important.  It can keep you feeling safe while you do the hard work of finding the causes of things, making it less scary to do that kind of work.  If you know you have ways of centering and feeling whole, taking risks is easier to do.  Since all growth comes with some degree of risk, having tools to manage the sense of danger creates a critical layer of safety as a base for exploration.  Besides, taking good care of yourself by making yourself feel good is a nice thing to do.

Another side benefit of getting comfortable with self touch as a means to self soothing is that it has helped me to use soothing touch with friends and loved ones.  Not that I'm suddenly all touchy-feely.  I'm not.  I have lots of boundaries around personal space, but when I think touch is called for I'm more confident sharing it.  Since I have spent time enjoying my own gentle touch, I recognize it as something valuable I can share with others.

Letting yourself relax and ground through small physical gestures can be a great gift to your peace, equanimity and joy in life.  Giving yourself this benefit is a little piece of self care you can administer at any time.  I hope it is as good for you, as it has been for me.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

ray greenberg smiles
    New self portrait.

Five Minutes of Bliss: Learn to think different through Self Hypnosis

You want to hear something funny?  I've got a growing list of 78 techniques for relaxing and making life more worth living and when I went to write this week's blog I found I didn't want to write about any of them.  I had picked one out last week and started to write it up.  It was something that has been a real boon for my life, something I love, value and want to share about, self empathy.  It is a great and important practice for healing old wounds and opening up to whatever is percolating inside you.  I really do want to write about it, but it is not what was up for me this week and I even more want to talk about something alive in my heart and in my life.  So this week I was involved in self hypnosis.  In fact I've been experiencing the benefits of self hypnosis for a few weeks now and I can hardly wait to tell you about it.

About a month ago I took the book The Healing Code out of the library.  My overall impression of it is that it is a terrible piece of trash.  The authors seem to love hauling out all kinds of new age, half truth, mumbo jumbo to explain why their process works.  And the claims of how it works are big, big ones about curing things like cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's disease.  If it was all that and a bag of chips as they seem to believe, you would think there would be healers all over the internet pointing to this practice.  Look around.  You won't find them.  There seems to be a number of "affiliate healers" trying to cash in on the popularity of the Healing Code, but very few unpaid testimonials sprouting up organically.  Now, here's the real paradox.  If you ignore all the sneaky ways the book's authors lure you to their website and try to sell you more and more Healing Code stuff and you skip over the pages upon pages of unsupported testimonials they put in their book and all the malarky about the unique power of their practice, they actually have developed a cool system of self hypnosis that I'm guessing really improves peoples lives.  I've enjoyed it and I think you will too!  How is that for an endorsement?

the healing code book reviewed

If you are like me, you are thinking self hypnosis sounds way uncool and inauthentic.  Maybe.  But 30 to 40 percent of the benefits of many medications are due to placebo effect.  Why not harness the potential of personal belief to make your life better?  It is free, powerful and beneficial.  And if the things you focus on improving come from deep stirrings inside of you, what could be bad?

Here is a nutshell version of the process of the healing code.  Spend a little time thinking of your problems, physical, mental, occupational, emotional, whatever.  Pick the one you most want to do something about.  Pray to the infinite or whoever you pray to that all the bad associations, adverse ideas and corrupt physical manifestations of and about this problem will be cleansed and healed by light and love.  And pray for the maximum effectiveness of this prayer.

Once you have set this intention choose an affirmation that relates to it and repeat it to yourself for anywhere from five to thirty minutes while sending healing energy back at yourself by pointing your fingers at various parts of your head and neck.  That is it.  In two paragraphs in this blog you've got the essence of their 300 page book and multi-million dollar industry.  God Bless America.

The book further suggests you practice three times a day, more if possible.  Part of the process is to sit with the problem for a few minutes and find your earliest memory of the feeling it conjures in you.  This felt sense may be caused by something very different from your current circumstances in that early memory.  In my case I was feeling scared, anxious and insecure about a business problem and when I stayed with the feelings I traced them back to some really old stuff about being rushed to grow up by my Mom.  I couldn't do anything fast enough or right enough for her.  Whether it was potty training, walking, talking, writing or whatever I was always a day late and a dollar short in her eyes.  She was terribly impatient with me and I internalized this in many ways.  I find it hard to take pleasure in my accomplishments, always focusing on the next challenge rather than savoring what I've done.  I'm quick to find my own flaws and to put myself down and I take it very personally when things go wrong.  I have often felt unloved and unlovable and have spent a lot of time trying to earn positive attention, crestfallen, when I don't receive it.  Whoa!  This business problem lead me to some very deep and painful introspection.

And at the core of my feelings about being pushed and belittled for years and years was an anger too hot to express that has been keeping me from coming into love.  My expectations of mistreatment and lack of ability to understand or forgive have kept me in a defensive posture also containing bottled up hatred.  Ick.  I've made a lot of progress with my stuff over many years of practice and attention but this central issue seemed immovable.  The healing code process gave me the insight to be able to connect these old feelings with my current problems and then a tool to replace the old hurt with new understanding.

I selected an affirmation about forgiveness, knowing that those who abuse me were themselves abused and that I would choose not to perpetuate the cycle of violence with hatred but rather start a new virtuous cycle with forgiveness and love.  I did this for a few days but did not really feel the forgiveness so I switched to a self soothing affirmation about being valuable and lovable.  I was able to shower my little boy self with patience and understanding in the same situations where I had been rushed and taunted.  This was very strengthening for me.

And then on Yom Kippur, a day set aside for fasting and reflection I was doing a very meditative Continuum Body Movement practice, when suddenly I felt like I was my impatient mother.  I embodied her frustration at having a late in life child she wasn't expecting.  I felt her annoyance at being stuck back in the house raising an infant, just when she was getting ready to spread her wings and enter the greater world.  I came into her resentment and I understood.  Wow.  In that moment I felt compassion for her and peace around our dynamic.

Happy Mother and Child Photo
    Source: Danielle & Lilliyan Flickr by Robert Whitehead

Since that time I haven't always been able to come into a place of forgiveness, when I think about those difficult situations.  Old habits of mind die hard.   But now, when I repeat the forgiveness affirmation, I connect with it on a deep level that was not accessible to me only a few short months ago.  And I don't think I ever would have been able to come into that loving place without conditioning my mind with the focus of my desire to be healed.  More and more I feel love and compassion for my mother in situations that in the past drew my impatience and fearful ire.  As to the business problem that started me on this path my sense is that getting unblocked on this old piece is helping me with my current situation.  The miracle cure may be set in motion but only time will tell that story.

To wrap this up I have two practices to share.  One is a simple self hypnosis technique that I have found very effective and the other is a reiteration of a modified healing code type of routine.

Here's how:
     An effective way to modify behavior and overcome obstacles is to repeat an affirmation and visualize yourself manifesting your new behavior for five minutes or so as you are drifting off to sleep.  I used this technique to overcome my shyness and fear around speaking to girls I was interested in knowing better.  Two rules here.  One is to frame the affirmation into a positive statement as if your new behavior has already manifested.  Not,  "I wish I could talk to women that interest me and not be scared of them" but "I am well received when I talk to women who attract me and I approach them with confidence."    The other rule is to not dwell in the place of the behavior you want to change.  Imagine only the new behavior you are now developing.  Sportsmen and women can improve their games just by thinking about manifesting perfect performances.  So can we.  I recommend you repeat your affirmation for a few minutes and then try to conjure a situation where you are manifesting the new behavior for a few minutes while you drift off to sleep.  This really sets the intention deep in your mind and will make it easier to manifest when the situation arises.  An added bonus of this simple practice is that you don't have to carve out any extra time to do it.

The more elaborate healing practice involves picking a problem you want to positively effect.  Go back to your earliest memory of the felt sense of this problem, even if the circumstances are very different.  Set the intention to cure this problem in a prayer as described above.  Then repeat an affirmation designed to replace the uncomfortable feelings with a new mindset.  Do this for five minutes or more sending the affirmation to different parts of your body where you think it will be most useful, especially focusing on the space between the eyebrows and the spiritual heart.  This last part is in lieu of and very different from the finger pointing in The Healing Code.  Be resolute in your desire to heal, practice everyday, multiple times a day if possible and your desired outcomes are sure to manifest.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

Five Minutes of Bliss: Complete Breath, Three Part Breathing

There are an infinite number of possible beneficial breathing exercises. I have picked one to share about today that is very special.  It is called Complete Breath or Three Part Breathing and it has many, many benefits, but the truth is whenever you make your exhalations longer than your inhalations for more than two minutes you are going to trigger the relaxation responses of the parasympathetic nervous system. You are human and that his how our bodies work. It is that simple.


Stripped bare all pranayama comes down to this. So why all the hoo ha? The mystical shroud about the power of breath and the many varied and sometimes quite complicated systems of counts, hand gestures and soundings are all so much gilt on a very plain, though quite lovely lily. It is all to entice us to do it. To lure our wandering minds and get them to settle. To keep us interested while we set about doing the boring task of deep breathing with long exhalations.

Well, ok, there might be a bit more to it than that. Some practices are geared to induce a certain mental frame, helping you to settle your mind on the rhythm of the breath or healing or success or becoming a better person or some other beneficial goal. Plus, some practices have been done for thousands of years, or have been developed by advanced masters for special purposes.  These things all mean something but the truth remains that they are all rooted in the simple bio-mechanical fact that our bodies relax when we elongate our exhalations. Every meditative tradition has a breathwork component as a lead in. That is why.

I consider myself a raja yogi. Raja means prince or chief and raja yoga is the royal road. The destination is samadhi, meaning liberation or bliss. The understanding of raja yogis is that all the other forms of yoga have value and are to be used to make progress on the path toward enlightenment. Swami Vishnu Devananda said, "Ways are many but god is one." Raja yogis pick the practices that work for them and are encouraged to explore to find them.

Perhaps this is why I know so darn many relaxation practices. Over a period of more than 40 years trying these things I've found one or two each year that really resonate with me. What is more, while I have learned most of them in class or workshop settings, it is the at home practice of them that has convinced me of their power and value. I'm planning to share a different relaxation practice here each week for the next year or more. What I hope is that at least one will resonate with you and you will find it useful on your own royal road to Nirvana.

To follow this lengthy explanation, I've chosen an auspicious practice.  One that is very traditional and practiced as universally as lotus or tree pose because of it's many benefits.  I've done it in Iyengar and Sivananda classes and been taught it by teachers like Dharma Mittra and Richard Hittleman and many others. Each teacher and tradition tends to put their own spin on things and I hope I will do the practice of Three Part Breathing justice.

The way I generally teach it now is fairly simple.  Sit on the floor or a chair in a comfortable seated position, back straight, head erect, shoulders back and down.  Inhale, through the nose, filling the stomach, then the chest, then the top third of the lungs for 6 counts each.  Squeeze in as much air as possible then hold at the top for 6 counts.  Release in reverse order exhaling nasally from the clavicle area, the chest then the stomach each for a count of six and repeat.

The benefits of this practice are many.  For beginners it is a great way to establish breath  awareness.  It deeply emphasizes the difference between a complete breath and the more limited breathing we normally do.  To underline this, putting our hands on the stomach, chest and clavicle area in turn helps to come into contact with the lung expansion and contraction.  This is also a good time to mention that yoga is perhaps the only exercise regime which focuses on expanding lung capacity by stretching the interstatial muscles between the ribs.  Studies have shown that even conditioned athletes can increase the volume of air they can process in each breath through yoga practice and this is why.

While the experience of focusing on this exaggerated expansion and contraction of the lungs is a good introduction to breath awareness it is also a wonderful set up for watching the flow of breath in the relaxed breathing of meditation. Doing Complete Breath as a warmup and observation of the breath during a cool down are effective and instructive bookends for a yoga class.

Three Part Breathing is also a gentle way to feel the difference between exertion and relaxation.  Doing this exercise before class, or before entering ones day or even as a little break in the middle of the day is a great way to let go of all our cares and worries and come into contact with ourselves.  In 2-3 minutes, around 6 rounds, you can easily shake off the tension of the day and begin to relax.  How nice is that?

Here are three variations I find very useful. One is shrugging the shoulders up to the ears on the top third inhalation, creating more lung capacity while also emphasizing the most subtle of the 3 areas of breath.  Release the shoulders on the top third exhalation.  The second variation is for more advanced practitioners.  It involves pulling the stomach in toward the spine on the bottom third exhalation in uddiyana bandha fashion.  You can also fold forward on this exhalation perhaps touching the forehead to the floor, hold for 6 and come back up on the inhalation.  This is less relaxing for most practioners and more of a yoga class warm up.  The third variation is for complete beginners and for classes closely focused on breathing.  Lie on your back on the floor or your mat.  As you do the complete breath put your hands on the stomach, chest and clavicle area in turn and notice also the pressure of the back against the floor and the way the sides expand.  Lying on the floor helps to exaggerate the side expansion and make it more noticeable.

    Anja Brierley Lange

Some of you might be saying wait, wait, there is something wrong here.  "You said to trigger the parasympathetic response the exhalation had to be longer than the inhalation, but in this practice they are even.  What gives?"  Well here's what gives.  All time spent not inhaling is counted as exhalation.  This is body wisdom, not something I made up.  So as long as your inhalations and exhalations are fairly even AND you are doing the hold at the top you will be in relaxation response territory.  Ahhhh.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

Five Minutes of Bliss: Getting Silly

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." - Luke 18:17

Relaxing doesn't always have to be closely focused on relieving tension, nor does it have to be serious.  In fact some of the best ways to become calm are downright silly and dare I say it, fun.

Think of the last time you had a good laugh.  A real big smile till your face hurt kind of experience.  How did you feel afterward?  Tense and down cast?  Of course not!  If you are like me, you felt happy, serene and satisfied.  Why not induce these joyous feelings?

"Easier said than done," you say.  I'm not so sure.

Try this.  Smile.  Are you smiling?  How does that feel?  I bet you are already feeling happier and more at ease than before you smiled.  Voila.  Instant bliss.

big toothy smile

So now we know.  The way to Nirvana is to keep smiling!  Well, it may not be that easy, but finding 5 minutes of bliss does not have to be very hard either.

Here's a practice I love that is just plain fun. I call it Operatic Breakfast because that is when I concieved it but you can do it at any time, alone or in a group.  I started doing it by myself and liked it so much I shared it with some close friends and we have had a blast with it.  I smile and laugh just thinking about it.

Ted Weis in The Most Happy Fella, Festival
 Opera, Walnut Creek, California
The concept is simple.  Narrate what you are doing or thinking about in an elaborate song that is overly dramatic.  Use your favorite big voice and really let loose.  Singing about how much I love my cereal and fruit in the morning, how white the soy milk, how crunchy the flakes, how sweet the banana.  How much fun is that?  This can of course apply to anything and it is especially satisfying to show appreciation of our friends and loved ones in this way.  Even talking about hurt feelings can be a pleasure when you are putting on a big show about it.  This practice takes things immediately from mundane to absurd.  With this perspective shift it is easy to have a sense of humor about nearly anything.  
There are plenty of situations where you might not be comfortable belting out your personal aria or gesticulating with vigor and you know what, this practice can still be the one for you.  Imagined situations work almost as well as full displays.  Say you feel the tension of an impending deadline tightening your neck, shoulders and back while working at your desk.  Now, just think of yourself singing at the top of your lungs ,"O woe is me, I will never have this job done on time.  I have to stay late, the hunger is making me weary, my partner may leave me, my life is so hard."  All delivered in a full throated open mouthed lyric while you embellish that you are tearing out your hair and banging your head, crying big tears.  Woe.  Mentally picturing this big display makes the actual situation start to look more handleable!  And here's a bonus, this humorous expression of your pain somehow breaks through your tension  leading to genuine, self empathy.  When you become both the actor and the viewer it is easier to give yourself the compassion you deserve.  Go ahead.  Give yourself some credit for that great mental performance and for hanging in during a difficult time ;--)
Imagining living life as melodrama somehow makes the real experience richer and more fun.  Who would have thunk it?

If you try this and have any questions or thoughts to share, I'd love to hear from you.

Five Minutes of Bliss: Buddhist Counting Meditation and Sleep Aid - 7 rounds of 7

This is a wonderful practice for clearing your mind when it is racing and needs to cool down.  I have found it helpful when I wake up agitated, thinking of all kinds of things not conducive to sleep.  Sometimes I don't  make it through the whole thing before I fall back into slumber.  Other times I have to do it twice or more, however, it always leaves me calmer than when I started.  I also like it as a short meditation that helps me shift from my mind flitting from one thought to the next to focused attention.

Subscribe to Everyday Yoga for more great posts like this one delivered to your inbox!
insomniac cant sleep

     Thanks to Alvaro of

I don't want to give the impression that I advocate jumping over difficult feelings and somehow numbing ourselves with "mind controlling" practices.  I suggest that when we wake up with difficult feelings we make an effort to stay with them and see where they lead us. Discover if you can, what in your present circumstances is triggering these emotions and notice how they may connect to your past.  This is important work on the path of self knowledge and I encourage you to do it.  The reason these feelings may be waking you up is because they "need to be heard".  Listening to them can be very liberating.  Sometimes after that process you will feel so soothed that you relax and go back to sleep with no other technique being necessary.  I love the times when that happens.

However, it is often the case that charged with old feelings of fear, shame or anguish of any sort our minds will race around looking for things to glom onto in an effort to hide from difficult feelings.  Focuses that seem common for this kind of thinking are all the things that we've done wrong lately, or the things that have gone wrong or may go wrong, or more mundanely what we have to do tomorrow that may of course go wrong.  Regardless of where the mind is trying to escape to to avoid feeling uncomfortable, it is rarely what you want to be focusing on at 3AM.  It serves no purpose and will only make you groggy the next day.  So I suggest you spend a few minutes closely focused on the energy you wake up with and what it represents, but don't let it lead you far afield in ways that  feed your agitation and make it hard to sleep.  When you are done exploring your feelings and ready to slow the mind down, begin this practice.

Here's How:
     Evidently, in the Far East, where this practice originated, they think of breathing as beginning with exhalation.  As a result, the way I learned this practice was starting with the out breath.  For us Westerners, since it is counter to habit, this makes it harder to do but easier to concentrate on.  We really have to think to begin with expiration.  Since wandering mind is a big obstacle, any help is welcome.  Doing this the Eastern way makes sense to me for this reason.

So when you are ready, seated or lying comfortably, take a final inhalation, then exhale through the nose counting mentally, "out 1."  Inhale through the nose and count mentally,  "in one." Exhale, "out 2," inhale "in 2," exhale, "out 3" and so on.  Unless your nose is stuffed up all breaths are through the nose.  Try to breath naturally, more observing the breaths and countings than directing them.  After completing 7 breaths, start at one again. Do 7 rounds of 7 breaths. This is way harder than it sounds.

The first few times you do this your mind may wander, making it difficult to keep counting or to remember to stop after 7 breaths and start again, or to remember how many rounds you have done.  Tradition has it that if you lose track in any of these ways, you are to start again from the beginning.  If this was the approach I took when I first learned this practice, I might still be doing it, since I've made all the "mistakes" many times, especially when I orininally tried it.  Lucky for you, it is not necessary to continually take it from the top to derive the calming effect.  My philosophy is that since it is the softening we are after, a nurturing and supportive approach is best.  When you get lost just make your best guess as to where you left off and pick up again.  Applaud your stick-to-ativeness and keep going.  If your goal is to go back to sleep, anytime that feels possible, go with it, let go and drift off, otherwise strive to do your seven rounds of seven.  After a bit more commentary, I will give you some tips, which might be frowned on in certain settings, that make getting through this easier.  I won't tell the sensei if you don't.

Since there are so many details and such specific instructions it may sound like this is a stressful process not a relaxant.  For some people it might be, but after awhile the rhythm of the counts and focus on the breath become a soothing vacation from whatever was bothering you.  This exercise can also be used as a transitioning meditation done for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of a longer sit, just to clear your mind and come into a state of relaxation before pursuing some other practice.  If you really like it a lot you could try doing 7 rounds of 7 rounds of 7 breaths.  This would be a full half hour sit.   Some people say meditation practices should not be used to induce sleep and sleep inducing practices should not be used for meditation.  I don't agree.  I find practices charged with healing, relaxed energy during meditation are just what I need when agitation keeps me awake.  Furthermore, if I am sleepy in meditation it doesn't so much matter what practice I am doing, wakefulness will be elusive.

This 7 counts of 7 practice will take between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the length of your breaths.   Along the way your mind may try to wander off.  Here are some tips, born from my experiance, that make it easier to stay focused on the breathing and counting.

The first thing I discovered is that if I say, "out one" real quick in my mind, I may forget what number I am at before the next breath, so now I elongate the mental saying of the count to match the length of the breath.  This makes it much easier to retain the counts.

The next thing that is hard to do is holding onto what round you are on.  To help here, I have chosen a simple expedient.  I use my fingers.  Figure out a system for curling or uncurling one digit each time you start or complete a round of seven.  This way you will know where you are all the time with the rounds.  I mostly do this mentally now, but at one time would I never have gotten through to the end without this trick.

The final helpful tip is perhaps the hardest to learn.  Don't worry so much about doing it right.  Just do it your way and it will be perfect.  Sweet dreams.

happy sleeper restful sleep

If you try this and have any questions or thoughts to share, I'd love to hear from you.

Please connect with me on the  Facebook Page and Instagram feed to get more Yoga wisdom, science, style, and fun everyday! And make sure to Subscribe to Everyday Yoga for more great posts like this one delivered to your inbox!

Five Minutes of Bliss: Relaxation Breath

Here's what I love about this week's practice. It is so simple and unobtrusive, you can do it anywhere. On line at the grocery store check out, no problem. At your desk while the boss is yelling (again) or the computer is frozen (again), no sweat. Driving with a car full of fighting kids, no worries. No kidding. This breathing exercise, appropriately named, relaxation breath, will take you back to a calm state when your fight or flight response is just getting going.
My understanding is that my teacher Sri Yogi Dharma Mittra developed this practice so he could settle during his lunch hour without calling attention to himself. Since it is so versatile, effective and easy to do, it is the pranayama I teach the most and a practice I reach for regularly, when things get hectic and I feel my body tightening.

Image by mrhayata, licensed by Creative Commons.

Here's how:
Come to a comfortable position, back straight, head erect, shoulders back and down. Inhale through the nose for 8 counts, hold for 4, exhale for 8. Repeat. That's it. Within 6 cycles you will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate, your metabolism and your mind. You will feel relaxed and energized and be happy to wait in line, take verbal abuse or ignore what is going on in the back seat for as long as you need to. This is a rare gem of an exercise since it is so simple, versatile and effective. In 8, hold 4, out 8, repeat. 2 minutes minimum is recommended (6-8 breaths). More will only make the relaxation deeper so feel free to keep going.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.

Five minutes of Bliss: Inviting the Ocean

We are primordial creatures. Our genetic inheritance begins in the sea. The ocean is echoed in our bodies which are mostly salty water. In just a few minutes we can come into contact with our flowing, briny selves and feel refreshed and invigorated.

Spiral shell
Thank you for the image Magpie Tales

Here's how:
Begin standing comfortably and breathing easily with your eyes gently closed. Try to maintain slow even breathing throughout. Take a few moments to check in with your self. Ask and answer, "How am I feeling?" Scan your body and notice any sensation. Make a mental note of anything special that is calling out to you. Any pain or discomfort, any excitement or relaxed feelings, any areas hard to access or numb. Whatever you find.

In this practice you will bring your attention to your joints and move them each in turn in an effort to lubricate and soften them. Following the patterns of the sea, you may choose undulating motions or spiral motions or any other gentle motion that feels right. You can start anywhere, I personally like starting with the fingers. There are so many joints to explore so many digits so many different motions. And as you work the fingers and hands the wrists and elbows will cry out for inclusion and you will respond by getting them involved, first letting the wrists lead and seeing what they call forth and then when you are ready moving onto the elbows.
Hands In Water
Try to stay loose and receptive. Let whatever joint you are focused on lead your movement but let the rest of your body support what you are doing as well. Try to give every joint some time before you are done. There is a joint at the top of the spine below the skull, approximately between the ears, give it some play. Don't forget to loosen the jaw and bathe it with fluid motion. At some point you may want to change your relationship to gravity, coming onto all 4s or lying on the ground to give your back, hips, legs and feet fuller range. Work slowly enough to be monitoring the feedback your body offers and continue to follow it. If you find yourself in repetitive motion ask if that is what your body is really asking for or are you stuck in a groove? Keep listening and responding.

When you are feeling finished take some time for a final check in. How do you feel now? What does your body feel like? How does it compare with how you felt before? Each time is different but I often find that I feel more relaxed, steadier, enlivened and focused than when I began. I love that this kind of shift is always just 5 minutes away and wish I would remember to take advantage of it more often than I do.

After you try it, I'd love feedback on how it went. If you have any questions about the instructions, please let me know. This is a variation on an experience I enjoyed in a Continuum Movement workshop with authorized teacher Elaine Colandrea. Anything we like about this we owe to her teaching and anything lacking in the instruction is my fault alone.

Bodylift Headstander and my dilemma

I have four herniated discs in my back. One in my thoracic spine and 3 in the lumbar region. About 5 years ago I had an acute incident that was incredibly painful and kept me out of work for two weeks. It was ironic that as a yogi I was dealing with this issue and it lead me on a quest to find things that would truly support my back health.

As I slowly recovered and experimented with different treatments and exercises, the one I was most drawn to and seemed to respond best to was chair poses. No, not Grandma's chair yoga but positions and practices that use the chair as a support, a massage tool and an antigravity device to help me slowly and methodically work all areas of my back and legs.
A few months ago I realized that the Headstander is a great thickly cushioned platform for doing this kind of work. One problem I now have is that the item is discontinued, so if I want more I need to have a couple of thousand made. They would need to sell for about $120.00 retail.
I actually have the the manufacturing situation lined up but it will cost me tens of thousands of dollars and I'll have a lot of chairs to sell. I'm inclined to do it because I'd really like to share this awesome therapeutic tool but I'd love some feedback. What do you think?

Bee and Flower vs. Kiss My Face

    You might think after a multi-month break from blogging during which momentous changes have occurred in my life, like my kicking my nicotine habit and my girlfriend and her six year old daughter moving in with me that I would rejoin you with something BIG!  I'm sure I will share some heavy stuff with you here at some point, but right now I'm real excited about something small that is ripe today.
     Way back in January, I had an idea for a series of blogs about a competition between Bee and Flower and Kiss My Face soaps.  They are both all natural, vegan soaps easy on the Earth and good for my sensitive skin.  I was at the health food store trying to decide which to buy.  The Bee and Flower bars are small and cost about $1.25.  The Kiss My Face Olive and Aloe is large and and cost about $3.75.  I was caught.  Stuck.  Undecided.
Kiss My Face Olive Oil and Aloe Soap

     I like the scent of the Bee and Flower varieties especially Sandalwood and Rose.  I appreciate the heft of the Olive Oil Bar and the feel of it on my skin.  Since I dig them both for different reasons this line of thought wasn't helping me decide which to get.  So I tried to think about which was a better bargain.  Here again I was flummoxed.  Bee and Flower bars were a bit over 2 ozs each and the Olive bar 6 point something.  The bigger bar is 3 times the weight and 3 times the cost.  No help there.   I thought since they start small the Bee and Flowers might vanish quicker but they are very hard and might not wash away so fast.  I thought that the olive bar  was softer and might not last very long but the truth was I just couldn't figure it out.  Then I realized for a little over $7.00 I could do a test.  And I could report the results here. 
     I bought 3 bars of Bee and Flower and one Olive Oil and Aloe and the competition was begun.  Each bathing day I switched off, one day using the Bee and Flower the next using the Kiss My Face bar and so on.  It wasn't very scientific.  One morning I might be in a hurry, another I might take a bath.  Weekends when my girlfriend slept over were the trickiest, trying to discern which bar she used and then using the other.  But what I hoped was that over time all this would even out and somehow a clear winner would emerge.  I thought of sharing about this whole thing while it was happening but I never got motivated to do it, till now.
     Yesterday, 6 months after I started doing this and 6 weeks after my solitary living was replaced with family life a definite result emerged.  Here is the picture:
Bee and Flower Soap
On top of my girlfriend's jar of facial scrub you can see the result of my months of disciplined soap use.  Fairly even chips of Bee and Flower and Kiss My Face Olive Oil and Aloe are left.   So after all that, I learned that they are both a good deal compared to each other.  If I really want to decide which soap to buy I will have to dig deeper.  Maybe I'll research the respective companies to see who is a better corporate citizen or treats their worker's better.  Or maybe I should just relax and decide by what feels right at the moment?  Maybe I think too much?  Ya think?
   Of course if I didn't I might not have anything to blog about.....  Have a great day.  I'll try to stay in touch now that I'm back.....