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SPIRITUAL-HEALING post

By Laura Samper G.

Have You Ever Tried Spiritual Healing?

Many meditation practitioners and people looking for alternatives to modern medicine are interested in the ancient practice of shamanism.  The term shaman comes from Siberia and means “the one who knows” (from the verb sha, “to know”). Shamanism is found in Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador), among hunter-gatherer societies in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and in some prehistoric cultures in Europe.

A shaman is someone who sees beyond their limits and does not identify with the personal “I.” They direct their inner worlds and their freedom lies in their detachment from dogma. So, shamans are able to heal themselves and others by knowing their own depth and richness.

Are we capable of performing actual healing on ourselves? Are we healers and shamans without realizing it?

spiritualhealing

As Above, So Below. As Within, So Without

Usually, when tensions, worries and stresses become chronic, they manifest as illness in the physical body. We externalize countless emotional tensions, conflicts and mental doubts. So, it is a matter of a mental, not physical attitude.

Psychological pressures and constant worries have unfortunate consequences on our energetic structures. We may suffer from panic attacks, pain, and moments of depression as if we were mentally bungee jumping. Sometimes, these episodes can go on for weeks without us quite noticing.

Sometimes, we just feel tired when we shouldn’t.

We are on autopilot. Our activities, relationships and place in the world start to overwhelm us. So, we withdraw into the desire to get rid of this feeling and we start making the wrong decisions. This is why we get stuck in unhealthy interactions, in toxic routines, and other off behaviors.

I started to practice yoga on a daily basis for this very reason. I wanted to heal and go deeper into myself and discover the unknown abilities hidden beneath rusty beliefs.

The Case of Back Pain

Last March, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention informed doctors that they should stop prescribing opioids for chronic pain and, instead, evaluate other, less invasive alternatives—especially for chronic back pain. Moreover, a recent experiment reported that 43.6% of people who participated in a mindfulness training course that included meditation and yoga practices presented a meaningful reduction in back pain 26 weeks later.

Referring to back pain, author Daniel Cherking, a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington said that, “The biggest revolution has been the understanding that it’s not just a physical problem with physical solutions. It’s a bio-physiological problem.”

According to the New York Times, 6.5 million Americans currently suffer from chronic lower back pain. However, most of them don’t have access to alternative treatments such as therapeutic meditation because they are not included in most insurance plans. (Hint: it’s a good option just to try these techniques at home.)

spiritualhealing1

Depression

We don’t have many options to run away from pharmaceuticals, either. When talking about mental disorders, psychiatric treatments are recommended. But why do we need to take pills? I think this is extreme when we are facing the real issues of being human. But this is just my opinion. I think that the psychiatric pharmaceutical industry works in very few specific cases.

There are many studies about the effects of meditation on the body and the emotions. Transcendental Meditation (TM), for example, is one of the more researched meditation techniques. Over 200 published scientific studies show that this technique reduces stress, boosts learning ability and creativity, and improves brain function.

Herbert Benson, M.D. from Harvard Medical School conducted extensive studies on TM and observed that the electroencephalograph (EEG) showed increased alpha wave activity, indicating greater tranquility of mind. His team also observed a decrease in heartbeat and a 20% decrease in oxygen consumption. There was also a marked increase in skin resistance.

Vipassana meditation is a technique that emerged in India 2500 years ago and has been studied at Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These studies suggest that meditation can actually alter the structure of our brains (this is an expression in the physical body of what Patanjali called nirodha parinama).

The Tibetan, Buddhist and Zen traditions all teach mindfulness techniques. In a recent study on the benefits of meditation, researchers found meditation to be as effective a treatment for depression, pain and anxiety as medication. This study, in particular, is remarkable because it analyzed data from 18,000 earlier papers on the topic. The most interesting fact revealed by this study was that, in the United States, the average effect of antidepressants is the same as for meditation. Are we onto something here?

Emotional Healing on the Mat

There are many ways to support healing on both the mental and physical levels that don’t involve using pills. I think it’s good to keep unveiling other paths beside those we have been taught by tradition and education.

After most of my hatha yoga practices, I find myself trying to answer this question: How can I heal myself without an outside influence? How can I feel better without depending on others?

spanda

The Alchemy of the Body

In the practice of hatha yoga, ancient wisdom and asanas go hand in hand. Physical movement should be performed with the inner spiritual attitudes recommended in the traditional texts of Tantra and Shaivism such as Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Spanda Karika and Shiva Sutra.

According to these teachings, the practice of yoga is oriented towards gaining intimate inner knowledge of the physical body, of its nature. A single practice may help us create the conditions for relaxation and for opening up to realize the alchemy of the body itself.

During the practice, we should experience happiness rather than effort and strain. Every pose should be an inner massage, a nice place to rest, meditate and observe.

Tip: Yes, when we think we are making a funny face during class, we are. When we laugh at it, our entire face—in fact, our entire body—will just relax.

The point is that we have an awesome, smart and hyper-connected body that can actually be the channel for the most powerful energies of life. We are life itself, but we sometimes forget about our true nature. How can we blame ourselves? There are so many screens to look at!

In my learning process as a beginner in hatha yoga, I feel like I’m a channel through which energy flows. The point is to learn how to dance with this inner fire, which is always latent and silent in our hearts. This is known as sama rasa in the Siddha Yoga tradition, a concept that inspires the practice of Hridaya Yoga and means balancing or “even essence.” This is the condition in which the physical body expresses, at each level, our divine perfection—our true nature.

10 Proven Ways that Yoga is Medicine

How can we actually heal ourselves during our personal yoga practice? Here is a quick guide with 10 tips to try this different type of medicine and incorporate meditation in the asana practice:

  1. Openness is the keyword. To experience a state of the transfiguration of the body, which means transforming the mind (and body) as you become free of your attachments to it, it’s important to let go of the idea of a strictly material, solid, heavy body subject to inertia, and keep it profoundly relaxed. See yourself from above.
  2. Detach from the physical body. You are aware that you are more than this body so you don’t identify yourself with it, it doesn’t represent who you really are.
  3. Breathe deeply as if you were lighting a fire inside your chest. With each inhalation, become aware of the fire and with each exhalation ignite it more and more.
  4. You can begin to practice nirmana kaya (also called the “original body” or “natural body”), which is like the physical body when you wake up and open the eyes with freshness and novelty.
  5. Let your mind come down to the heart, feeling the intimacy of coming back home, the connection to a deeper dimension of your being.
  6. Start each asana with awareness, moving slowly, coming to a comfortable, steady position and finding the balance between effort and relaxation. Remember that there’s nothing to achieve, you are just witnessing.
  7. After gradually coming into the asana, you may start to practice kaya sthairyam, the immobility of the body, remembering that the stillness of the body induces the stillness of the mind.
  8. Acknowledge the universal essence of the energies running through your body. That tingling that starts at the tip of your fingers and toes is pure electricity! It is the dynamism of the life force or samsara.
  9. If the posture causes inherent tension, try to accept that tension with detachment. Relax even in the most challenging moments and become an instrument of all the divine qualities that manifest through you: love, compassion, creativity, courage and joy.
  10. For better results, whenever possible try to perform the asanas with your eyes closed.

Nothing in the practice should be rigidly planned. It is more of a heartfelt, creative act, a joyful endeavor, a true celebration of life. Whenever we feel tension, we can breathe in deeply and direct the oxygen to the specific area of contraction, releasing strain by watching—not imagining—and revealing an ever-deeper state of relaxation.

Asanas reflect our personality. Our transformation begins with the very attitude we have when we start a posture. If we infuse elegance, harmony, surrender and refinement into the practice, yoga becomes a way of generating such qualities in our whole life. This is the alchemy of the body: the more we inhabit it, the more we can allow the current of life to run through us, removing blockages. Gradually, a love affair starts to grow between who we really are (without any masks, traumas or fears) and the world around us. We are no longer in the prison of dogma.
 
Stop Being So Religious
What
Do sad people have in
Common?
It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past
And often go there
And do a strange wail and
Worship.
What is the beginning of
happiness?
It is to stop being
So religious
Like That.

-Hafiz

Hridaya Yoga TTC

By Ian Marshall

Weeeaaooohhhh… What a ride… The Hridaya Teacher Training Course was more than I ever dreamt. A three-month investigation into the witness consciousness, the question “Who am I?” and an invitation into love, community, introspection and learning.

The day before our graduation we had a sharing circle. Each one of the 30 TTCers brought something to the group as a way of expressing gratitude for the experience and became profoundly moving as each new person offered up a fresh perspective.

It lasted for 9 hours.

From songs and invitations to dance to individual stories of difficult times mixed in with deep stillness and tears, it was the culmination of a journey which we had all been undertaking in our own different ways.

I’ve thought about how to write about an experience which lives with me every day, which I still haven’t really been able to even begin to process and which is the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for a few years and a profound catalyst for change at the same time.

I discovered Agama first, in Thailand, and after studying tantra with them it wasn’t until Rishikesh that I took Level 1 and was introduced to the Hridaya style of meditation. It resonated with me immediately as the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and my time in Tiruvannamalai with Mooji had been an important part of my journey. So I went back to Thailand for my first Hridaya retreat with Sahajananda and was immediately hooked. I would have signed up for the TTC straight away if it had been possible but it was a year later that I finally made it out to Mazunte.

Each day on the TTC was an adventure with new stuff coming up and fresh challenges to be faced. We meditated a lot.

We listened to lectures about yoga philosophy, meditation practices and brain waves.

We learnt about Samadhi, the supreme state in meditation where subject and object merge into one, and how it has many forms. I attained none of them but at least one of our group did, the mystery remains.

We studied the body with a series of multi-media anatomy lectures that engaged and entertained.

We practised nauli kriya daily. For ages.

We suffered the anxiety of the first practicum. We enjoyed the elation of the second practicum. We learnt just to be during the third practicum.

We stared at the sun and allowed the blind spot in our vision to be a focus of meditation. Meditate on light, go into the light, become the light that you are, reflect on the many ways of accessing this, from staring at the horizon to looking from the corner of the eye.

We had a turn with the Brain Machine, a set of goggles and headphones that transmits a series of LED flashes and pulse sounds into your head. I felt like I’d been attacked the first time I tried it.

We practised voluntary hibernation, I liked that one a lot.

We had two ten day silent retreats and one 48 hour stretch in the dark room.

I was among the first in the dark and it came at a good time. I was feeling exhausted from everything but as soon as I turned off the light it felt like being enveloped in a blanket of darkness and I absolutely loved it. It lead me to deep states of meditation, a feeling of disconnection from the body and I emerged completely re-energised. I spent some time lying on my bed in a state of nearly sleeping and nearly waking feeling myself drift in and out of the dream state. When I was dreaming it was vivid and bright and lucid and on awaking the flower of life image lasered its way into the darkness.

The first 10 day retreat couldn’t come too soon. I was overwhelmed with material and looking for some time to cogitate on the content. It turned out frustrating, though, as deep moments for me were rare. There was no lack of drama as massive storms rolled in, tents washed away and the boom of thunder during a dark afternoon meditation coupled with an outburst and screaming as things got too much for one.

Before the second retreat I started the Ohsawa 10 day brown rice diet and up until the first day of silence things were improving. Focus, practice and meditation were all becoming more natural and although whole wheat chapatis meant I wasn’t solely eating rice, it felt like a good discipline.

The first day of retreat saw an attack of diarrhea and I struggled to eat even the small amount of rice I’d served myself. An attitude of disconnecting from food became the opposite as I spent my whole time thinking about how I could dam the flow and gain some strength. After barely eating for three days, and completely fasting for one, as soon as I started eating the “normal” food I got better. The amaranth and papaya breakfast was my favourite thing in the world that morning. The day I fasted was great, I practised asanas during the lecture and went full on into a strong practice but the day after left me even weaker than ever and I had to leave the hatha class to vomit. Powerful purifications there.

While my retreat experience might not have been what I had dreamt, each week we would have kirtan or devotional singing and it was during these beautiful events that I found myself going deeper inside, to a state of profound bliss and connection.

I love being in nature, although I realised I’m not as in touch with my hippie side as I thought after meeting some of the free spirits at the school.

We went to see the turtles hatching one evening and spent a couple of nights camping by some waterfalls in an amazing part of the Mexican countryside. After swimming in the falls, hugging giant trees and having an all night bhajan party a tired but happy group of yogis raided the Oxxo store on the way back into civilisation for ice cream and crisps, a far cry from the yogic diet but food for the soul, I like to think.

It wasn’t all fun and games though and when the serious business of exams came around there was a flurry of activity as people tried to study. Small revision groups in the kitchen definitely did me a world of good, as did some excellent work producing professional notes that some yogis found the time to manifest. At the end of the day, the exams weren’t really what the course was about. There is no marking system involved in attaining connection with the divine self and having a lot of book knowledge does not necessarily produce a teacher who can transmit. Still, I somehow found myself getting 100% in the last exam, which my little ego was kind of happy about!

During the course, as I tried to move away from the personal ego and worldly concerns, I found myself drawn into a confusing triangle of relationships which was distracting but ultimately rewarding. While we follow a path that leads directly inside to the highest truth of our being this is still a tantric school after all, and relationship remains of utmost importance. I’m still learning how best to share my love and knowledge with the world and allowing the stillness to blossom from deep within me but I know that I have all the skills at my disposal now.

Hridaya Yoga TTC

Our graduation was a beautiful and typically drawn out affair. All dressed in white we collected our certificates and received our prasad before it was time for our host to lead us through a group of performances ranging from the truly sublime to the truly ridiculous, touching on comedic genius and virtuoso performance as it progressed. The mystery of the English nanny was revealed, but alas not the mystery of the samadhi. We had powerful belly dancing, peaceful tai chi, fiery flamenco and interesting interpretative dance mixed in with the rapping, comedy skits, singer-songwriters and group performance of Tender. Our hearts were full of rainbows and we were all so busy sharing that things again went on late enough that the DJ went home and the after party ended up with table dancing in the kitchen.

It was blissful exuberance, a pure expression of spanda, released after an intense three months, a far cry from “Maple leaf, falling down, showing front, showing back” but no less centered in the Heart and representative of what this school is trying to achieve.

Follow Ian here.

 

New Dimensions of the Practice. Notes and Observations:

 

Note: While progressing with the tapas and deepening its effects, new dimensions for the practice are inspired to me by the practice itself.  I include the new methods along with the inspiration, and the daily exercise becomes richer, more profound, allowing the direct revelation of the deeper effects such complex tapas can bring.    I also become more aware of the inspiration and divine grace that guide my daily life.         

Sun gazing

 

  1. “Absorbing” the Light through the Eyes:
  • While keeping the state of relaxation, I mentalize that I “absorb” the Light through the Eyes —> I guide it downward towards the Heart —> I fill the Heart with the Light of the Sun;
  • I feel the warm sensation in the Heart, sometimes even hot and glowing.
  1. Combining Sun Gazing with Breathing practice:
  • I “Breath-in” the Light with every breath: I start breathing in and out with awareness, feeling how I “inhale” the Light into my Eyes with every breath, and I guide it toward the Heart;
  • I briefly practice the “Blowing Upon the Amber” technique to fully activate my Heart Center;
  • I then combine the 2 exercises, such way that the “Breathing-in of the Light into the Eyes” continues with “Blowing the Light into the Heart”, with every breath;
  • When the practice becomes comfortable, I establish the Rhythmic Breathing. Chosen Pattern:  4,2,4 à 8,4,8  à 8,8,8,2 à 8,8,4
  • I keep the Awareness on the Heart Center, and on “Breathing-in the Light into my Eyes, then flowing it into the Heart”, to fill the Heart;

Note: The Kati Channel becomes better defined, warmer, more perceivable, more and more active and energised. 

  1. Connection with the Inner Ear:
  • I gradually start feeling a connection with the Inner Ear on both sides;
  • My Inner Ears become highly activated;
  • Some energy channels related to the Inner Ears converge with the Eyes Channel in the throat area, and then go into the Heart Center.
  1. Throat area becomes dominant:
  • My entire throat area is now very activated, energised, dilated and vibrating; it becomes the dominant area of the practice-results;
  • It feels like it is a Gateway or a hub for all the energy channels;

 

Note: This strong sensation of energy, vibration and dilation in the throat area may be related to my natural dominant Vishudha Chakra activation, and the fact that my daily morning Yoga practice is highly focused on Vishudha Chakra; or, it may be just the effect of the convergence of the energy channels – simultaneously activated.

 

  1. Back of the head, Cerebellum activation:
  • The feeling of energizing and dilation extends toward the back of the head, bringing a new focus. I clearly feel my Cerebellum activation
  1. Whole head activation, energy field expansion
  1. The entire area of the head, neck, shoulders, chest and upper-back feel ethereal now – expanded, energised, and vibrating.

 

Hridaya Sungazing

Looking forward for whatever comes next !